Updated: Raul Reinosa was sentenced to 45 years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty, avoiding a mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder.
On June 23, 2014, the Miami hospitality community was stunned and saddened by the brutal murder of one of its own when Louis Salgar, a bartender at popular spots such as the Broken Shaker and Gramp's, was shot in his Upper Eastside home.
Today at 9 a.m., 55-year-old Raul Reinosa will stand trial for three felony counts of first-degree murder, armed burglary, and felony possession of a weapon.
Three years ago, Reinosa allegedly broke into Salgar's home at NE Eighth Court and NE 85th Street in Miami's Shorecrest neighborhood and shot the bartender three times with a gun he found. A few weeks later, Reinosa was arrested in St. Augustine after fleeing the scene in a stolen car. Since then, Salgar's family has been awaiting justice.
Nicole Salgar hasn't spent the time idly. The artist, who describes her brother as "one of the best people in the universe," moved from New York City back to her native Miami to comfort her parents, Vania and Manuel Salgar. She has also painted several murals in Wynwood dedicated to her brother as well as at-risk youth. "I want to help kids that might fall into a bad situation and see what their future could be," she says. "I just want to be able to continue to do things that are positive."
In addition, Nicole has worked with the U.S. Bartending Guild to raise funds in her brother's name to help young bartenders pay for travel to national mixology competitions.
The years have been hard on her and especially her parents, but the wait, Nicole says, has taught the family patience. "It's something that ultimately you want resolved as soon as possible, but we were told that it's better to make sure everything is in place," she says. "We didn't try to rush anything. It's hard, but if we have to wait years for justice, we will." The trial, according to the judge, shouldn't last more than a few days, Nicole says.
During jury selection this week, Nicole first saw her brother's accused killer in the flesh. "It was pretty surreal. That's the best word I can find for that feeling. To be that close to someone who did something that brutal, you don't know how to act. You're kind of numb in a way."
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She struggles to find words to describe her feelings toward Reinosa. "Anger would be level one. I feel anger times 1,000. [My brother] was my best friend, and my life has changed forever. It changed other lives as well — my parents, his friends. I can't find good words right now."
The family won't be alone, however. Friends and co-workers of Louis's have pledged to be at the trial in a show of solidarity, Nicole says. "One guy is coming from Gainesville. He says Louis was inspiring. People would meet him for an hour and they felt such a connection and positive energy."
Indeed, Louis' legacy lives on. At Gramp's in Wynwood, his cocktails remain on the menu, and at the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach, a framed picture of him sits alongside a shot glass that's filled daily as a tribute to his spirit.
Nicole says there's one thing she would like to come from Louis' death: "My wish is that gun laws would be made stricter, that there's less gun violence. I also hope Louis inspires people to take something that's a tragedy and turn it into something positive."