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Two Allentown men charged with homicide in Bethlehem melee that killed woman

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 07 2012 02:33:01 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 25 2014 12:07:49 PM CST

Charges filed in Bethlehem shootout; vigil held

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Investigators say a minor dispute sparked a shoot-out that killed a young woman last weekend. The deadly incident happened outside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society Club in South Bethlehem.

Friday, two Allentown men were charged. Police say 32-year-old Rene Figueroa fired the fatal shot that hit Yolanda Morales; he was charged with her homicide.

Thirty-eight-year-old Javier Rivera-Alvarado is charged with attempted homicide for also allegedly shooting Morales and two of her friends. Together the pair face a combined 29 charges for the gun battle.

Sunday morning's melee sent five people to the hospital with gunshot wounds, and killed 23-year-old Yolanda Morales. According to court documents it all started inside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society club with a verbal spat between Rene Figueroa and Morales' friend Orialis Figueroa after Rene bumped into him and asked what he was looking it. Apparently earlier Rene saw Orialis looking at his gold and diamond jewelry. Rene Figueroa and Orialis Figueroa are not related.

"During the argument the male told Orialis quote "te voy al desparar," meaning I'm going to shoot you," said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

As the club closed investigators say everyone moved outside. Orialis grabbed a bat from a car for protection and walked back to the club to find his girlfriend. That's when things escalated.

"Shooter #1 pointed a handgun at Orialis Figueroa's head and stated quote what's up ***** ******, put your **** down," explained Morganelli.

Court documents say shooter number one, Javier Rivera-Alvarado, started firing the stolen handgun. He hit Orialis several times in the legs. The papers outline how at that point Morales and Angel Figueroa, Orialis' brother, walked over.

"Turned toward Angel Figueroa and Yolanda Morales and fired one shot, after the shot was fired Orialis Figueroa heard the young lady Morales say 'I'm hit'," described Morganelli.

He goes on to say Rivera-Alvarado then shot Luis Rivera, who had been at the club with Morales and her friends. According to investigators, while this was happening, Orialis was able to walk up behind Rivera-Alvarado and hit him in the head with the baseball bat he had. Rivera-Alvarado fell to the ground and Orialis grabbed his gun.

Investigators say that's when Rene Figueroa showed up with his own gun, and was taking aim at Angel Figueroa, but Morales was in between.

"Shooter #2 shot Yolanda Morales one time, she immediately collapsed to the ground," said Morganelli. "Shooter #2 then shot Angel Figueroa one time, after being shot Angel Figueroa fell to the ground and began yelling for help."

He says shooter number two, Rene Figueroa, kept firing toward Orialis. Orialis told officials he returned fire with the handgun he took from Rivera-Alvarado until Figueroa ran back into the club. Both were hit multiple times.

"They're not licensed to carry firearms in the streets, and they brought those guns into this battle, they used those guns."

Investigators say even though he was injured, Rene Figueroa ran back into the club. He handed the gun to someone who hit it in the men's bathroom. Police are still looking for that person.

The situation was chaos. In all police say 30 shots were fired and six people were hit multiple times, including Rivera-Alvarado and Rene Figueroa. They are still in the hospital with severe injuries. The pair were arraigned there Friday afternoon.

"It's just an unfortunate situation that we lost a young girl's life as a result of something that really she wasn't involved with," shared Morganelli. "And quite frankly even those that were involved in the dispute, it should have never gone to this stage."

Authorities say they decided not to charge Orialis in this incident because they believe he acted out of self defense.

"We believe his actions of picking up the gun and firing at both of these individuals actually may have saved some other lives that night."

Rene Figueroa is charged with criminal homicide, two counts of attempted homicide, two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit attempted homicide, four counts of aggravated assault, four counts of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, carrying a gun without a license, and receiving stolen property for having a stolen gun.

Javier Rivera-Alvarado is charged with three counts attempted homicide, three counts of criminal conspiracy to commit attempted homicide, three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, carrying a gun without a license, and criminal conspiracy to carry a firearm without a license. Authorities are still investigating if his gun was stolen.