His victim was left paralyzed but a Keys jury calls it a ‘battery,’ not attempted murder

Anthony Joseph Valdes
Anthony Joseph Valdes Florida Department of Corrrections

A Florida Keys jury Friday found a Key West man guilty of aggravated battery — not attempted murder like prosecutors wanted — in a 2015 shooting that left the victim paralyzed from the waist down.

But the shooter isn’t getting off so easy. Anthony Valdes, 43, faces a minimum of 25 years in prison for the conviction, prosecutors said.

The shooting happened after the victim admittedly stole $500 from the defendant’s family.

Valdes wasn’t justified when he fired twice into Ray Alvarez, 31, whom he knew as “Bubba,” on Oct. 15, 2015, outside Valdes’ home on Duck Avenue in Key West, the jury concluded.

Instead, Valdes committed aggravated battery for putting a bullet in Alvarez’s back, which paralyzed him instantly, and then shooting him in the leg.

Circuit Court Chief Judge Mark Jones will sentence Valdes at 1:15 p.m. March 12.

Valdes said Alvarez had just stolen all the cash his family had, $500, from a bedroom and wouldn’t give it back. Alvarez said he stole the money but gave it back before he left the home.

Yet the confrontation, and the shooting, happened in the front yard, Valdes’ lawyer pointed out. Valdes says Alvarez had him in a “chokehold,” so he pulled his gun and shot from behind his back.

“He pulled the trigger to stop the altercation and to save his life,” said attorney Howard Sohn. “He knew the sound or the contact would stop it.”

Valdes, a construction worker, had lost his thumb to a saw the day before and was rendered “defenseless,” when Alvarez grabbed him, Sohn argued.

Alvarez spent a month in a coma before he was able to make a statement to police. He said he went to Valdes’ place to buy prescription drugs and when confronted about stealing the cash, emptied his pockets.

Valdes says Alvarez wouldn’t give back the money so he followed him outside and tried to force him to stay until he called police. Alvarez says he was shot as he went to pick up his bicycle and leave.

None of this would have happened if Alvarez hadn’t stolen the $500 from the family that had two babies, Sohn said.

“He was a six-time felon when this happened,” Sohn said of Alvarez, who watched the trial from his wheelchair. “He’s a thief.”

Valdes also has a criminal history. He is currently on drug offender probation, which started last year, until 2021, for selling drugs in 2015.

Judge Jones jailed Valdes after the verdict without bond.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.