Teen pleads not guilty in shooting death of MCSO detention officer

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX – A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty in the shooting death of a Maricopa County detention officer.

Leonard Culling Moreno, who was charged as an adult, entered his plea Wednesday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court. His next court date is Nov. 7.

Moreno was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jorge Vargas, 27.

Vargas was working on his truck, getting ready to go to work at about 4 a.m. on Aug. 8, when he was shot in the driveway of his home near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road. He was wearing his uniform that identified him as a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office employee.

Phoenix police said they believe the shooting was likely a random incident. Sgt. Trent Crump said Moreno was high, drunk and armed when he left a party and headed home. Vargas' home was between the party and Moreno's residence.

On Wednesday, Moreno also pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and drive-by shooting stemming from an incident two days after Vargas was gunned down.

Police said the shell casings from the Aug. 10 shooting near 39th Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix matched those recovered from the scene where Vargas was killed.