SHAWNEELAND — Fatal shooting victim Walter Flores Duarte and the owner of a home in the 100 block of Cornstalk Trail in Frederick County had been drinking and were shooting recklessly inside and outside the residence prior to Duarte’s death, according to a neighbor who said he witnessed the events leading up to Duarte’s death on Aug. 2.
Ted Samples, who previously spoke with police, said in an interview with The Winchester Star on Monday that the homeowner complied when he told him to stop shooting around 4 a.m.
“He went inside and put the gun in a cabinet, so I figured it was done and over with. And then  minutes later, here comes the cops and the ambulance,” said Samples, who lives across from the home and was able to see inside. “You just don’t mess with guns when you’re drinking. It’s unfortunate.”
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office identified the 48-year-old Duarte on Monday. Sheriff Lenny Millholland said the three-week delay in releasing his name was because investigators had problems locating Duarte’s relatives in El Salvador to notify them of his death. Duarte’s body was sent to El Salvador over the weekend.
Authorities have deemed the death “suspicious” and are awaiting laboratory tests and an official cause of death from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Samples said Duarte and the homeowner were old friends and there was no tension between them before Duarte’s death.
“They were laughing. They were drinking and just having fun and just doing stupid stuff,” Samples said. “It’s tragic. The man was crying in my arms [afterwards] and men usually don’t do that. They were like brothers.”
Before Duarte and the homeowner went inside the house, they accidentally shot into the back porch, Samples said. He said Duarte also fired shots into a tree or nearby building and at one point fired shots out a side window of the home. Duarte appeared inexperienced with guns, according to Samples, and before the two men began shooting, the homeowner had to demonstrate how to rack the slide of the pistol to put a bullet into the chamber.
According to police, the homeowner denied he and Duarte had been firing a gun, but they found a .22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic pistol containing seven bullets in the home and shell casings around Duarte’s body.
After Duarte’s body was removed from the home and police left, Samples said the homeowner told him he put the pistol in a closet and went to sleep in his son’s bedroom because the son was feeling ill. Duarte went to sleep on a couch. Samples said the homeowner told him he was awakened by a shot and found Duarte wounded and dying in the kitchen.
Samples said the homeowner may have been dishonest with police because he panicked after Duarte’s death.
Samples added that if had reported the reckless shooting to police, Duarte might still be alive. But he said he didn’t want to get the homeowner in trouble because he’s a good neighbor and he thought the gun had been put away for the night.
The Winchester Star hasn’t identified the homeowner because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.
“I told him, ‘You should have took it and locked it up.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I know, but I didn’t think he’d get it back out,’” Samples said. “He’s a decent person, but unfortunately, even when you’re decent, bad things happen sometimes when you’re not careful.”