Sudden Shots

Cold case: Nine years after two people were killed at a party, police need leads

It was a party like any other party—at least by teenager and college-kid standards. Loud music was blaring; beverages were flowing; attendees were scoping each other out.

One thing the party, at an apartment complex near Pima Community College West, did not have was tension.

"It was not a rowdy party," recalled Amanda Gurgone, who had just turned 18, of the scene around 1 a.m. on April 6, 2003. "There wasn't any name-calling or looks at each other. There wasn't anything to indicate something was going to happen."

Then the shots rang out.

Gurgone, now 27, said she thought they were firecrackers. So, too, did 20-year-old Jack Taylor, who was headed up a flight of stairs when the shooting began.

Taylor's mother, Diana, said her son was looking back to see where the sound came from when a bullet struck him in the head. Jack died the next day at the University Medical Center (now the University of Arizona Medical Center), where Diana works in the labor and delivery unit.

Jack Taylor was one of six people shot that night. Two of them died. Sallie Garcia, 19, was also killed.

Gurgone was shot three times: once in the leg, once in the arm, and once in the side of her chest. The shot to her chest has left her in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

"The bullet is still in my back," she said last week.

Tucson police consider this crime a cold case, because no new leads have surfaced in a while. The initial investigation focused on the belief that one or more people fired into the complex from behind a block wall—but it wasn't clear if the shooters were aiming at someone, or were just firing randomly.

"They've come up with theories. That's about it," Diana Taylor said. "They questioned quite a few people, but never really had any leads. It was late at night; I don't know if (the partygoers) were able to see anything. And they were so scared, they each just ran their own way."

The shooting left emotional scars on dozens of people. For those connected to the Taylor family, it meant losing a son, a brother, a fiancé and a father.

Jack's daughter, Rachel, was 8 months old when he died. His soon-to-be wife, Rachel Norzagaray, remembers losing track of time while visiting her sister that night, and then suddenly realizing she hadn't heard from Jack.

"I called his cell phone, but got no response," Norzagaray said. "I just remember getting to my house, and that's when I saw all the missed calls from his parents."

Jack, Rachel and their daughter were supposed to have gone to dinner at Jack's parents' house that evening; it was a regular tradition, but circumstances delayed their arrival. Diana Taylor said her son called about two hours before the shooting to say he was running very late, and he wanted to know if any of his father's renowned carne asada was still available. Told yes, Jack said to save him a plate, and that he'd be along soon.

Jack Taylor, who was just short of his 21st birthday, had been planning to make some big changes in his life, his mother said. Recently laid off from his job at a local gym, he hoped to join the Navy, like his older brother, Robert, and was preparing to work toward his GED to achieve that goal.

"He always wanted to do something for me to be proud of," said his brother, Robert Taylor. "The GED, he was on his way to doing that. I remember telling him to stay focused. That was his plan, but it never happened."

Diana Taylor said the loss of a son has hurt far worse than previous passings in her life, such as the death of siblings and a parent. She credits her faith, her family and Homicide Survivors, a nonprofit support group affiliated with the Pima County Attorney's Office, for helping her get through it.

"There's nothing like losing a son, nothing at all," she said.

The shooting also resulted in the Taylors getting to know Gurgone. Although she didn't know Jack before the shootings, she said the bond she now shares with the Taylor family as a result of the incident has kept them close for the past nine years.

"For his whole family, I was someone who could relate to them," Gurgone said.

Many of those connected to the case still believe the shootings can be solved. They say it's just a matter of finding someone who saw something, and is willing to step up and talk about it.

"I hear a lot of people saying they know somebody who knows what happened, but nobody says exactly who," Norzagaray said. "Somebody knows something. You want to know: What was the purpose, and who was behind it? When you have no answers, it's harder."

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