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Trial begins in Medford shotgun robbery case

Two teenagers stand trial this week, charged with robbing a homeless man earlier this year at gunpoint.

John Thomas Maya, 19, and 17-year-old Austin Hernandez will each spend at least five years and 10 months in prison if convicted on charges of second-degree robbery. Hernandez is being tried as an adult in Jackson County Circuit Court under Oregon's tough-on-crime law, Measure 11.

Prosecutors allege the two accosted Robert Stieber near the railroad tracks crossing Jackson Street as he was walking to a west Medford homeless shelter around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 6. Stieber testified that Hernandez threatened him with a 12-gauge shotgun and demanded his money. Stieber said he thought the two teens were joking at first, but Hernandez nudged his temple with the gun's barrel.

He said, 'I'll kill you,' and I thought 'OK,' Stieber told the court.

— When Stieber handed over his wallet ' containing about &

36;10 ' Hernandez and Maya ran south along the tracks.

Police quickly arrived, responding to an earlier call from a neighborhood resident who said he saw two men walking with a gun and heard a shot fired. Donald David, who testified that he was out walking his dog that night, said Hernandez appeared to have a gun hidden in his sweatshirt. David said he heard the shotgun being cocked and fired several minutes later.

David gave police descriptions of the two men, whom officers believed to be armed and dangerous. When police arrived, Stieber flagged down officers and told them he'd been robbed at gunpoint.

Maya himself narrowly missed being shot by officers when they found him walking along Second Street, several blocks away from the reported robbery scene, according to court testimony. Medford police officer Tony Young said Maya refused to stop when the officer yelled Stop, police.

Maya continued walking behind a parked van, holding his arms straight down at his sides as if he was holding something, Young said. When Maya passed behind the van, Young heard the clatter of metal hitting the ground. As Maya rounded the vehicle, Young saw that his hands were up and he handcuffed him. With his hands up, Hernandez walked across the street toward the police car and also was arrested.

Officers found a 12-gauge shotgun, Stieber's wallet, a duffel bag and Maya's cell phone on the ground behind the van.

Maya's attorney, Bob Abel, urged jurors in his opening statement to consider the actions and intent of each young man. Although Stieber said Hernandez brandished the weapon, prosecutors allege that both men are equally responsible for the crime.

Hernandez' attorney, Damian Idiart, told the jury that prosecutors would not be able to prove which defendant held the gun or wallet. Idiart also asked Stieber, who told the court he has impaired hearing, if he clearly heard what Hernandez had said.

More than 30 friends and family lined the courtroom's benches in support of Hernandez and Maya. Maya's sister, 20-year-old Trina Joslin, said she was troubled that all the police officers set to testify were white. None of the jurors ' eight women and four men ' are Hispanic.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail