North Carolina

‘How many chances do you get?’ Accused killer had prior charges dismissed.

At a court hearing in November 2018, a judge denied bond for Carlos Olguin, pictured here in an orange jail jumpsuit. Olguin has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Christian Allen at a 2017 party.

For weeks after their son’s death, the mail brought Beth and David Allen painful reminders.

It was almost time for their son Christian to get his high school senior portrait, one mailing said. He could now apply for his first credit card. And here were his SAT scores — good enough for Appalachian State University, the college he wanted to attend.

On Feb. 19, 2017, those dreams had come to a violent end.

Christian, an 18-year-old football player for East Mecklenburg High School, was at a party that night when he got into a fistfight. Then came gunfire.

Police say Carlos Olguin — a 24-year-old with seven previous gun charges — repeatedly shot Christian. When police arrived at the house on Kelford Lane, they found Christian collapsed in the living room, bleeding from gunshot wounds. Olguin has been charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

Carlos Olguin.jpeg
Carlos Olguin Mecklenburg County Sheriff's office

The Allens wonder: If prosecutors had been tougher with Olguin early on, would their son still be alive?

In May 2011, at the age of 16, Olguin was charged with possession of a handgun by a minor. He pleaded guilty and spent 45 days in jail.

Later that year, after a shootout, Olguin was charged with one of the most serious gun offenses — assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. Mecklenburg prosecutors dismissed that charge, along with a related charge of discharging a weapon into occupied property. Witnesses in the case gave inconsistent statements, a prosecutor wrote in a court document explaining the dismissals.

In 2012, Olguin was charged with two more gun crimes — including a felony assault charge that came after a relative claimed Olguin had shot at him. Prosecutors dismissed those charges, too. The available court records don’t show why.

“How many chances do you get?” David Allen asked. “He did get progressively worse. Until he did the ultimate. The writing was on the wall.”

Mecklenburg prosecutors refused to discuss Olguin’s prior charges because of his pending murder case. Olguin’s attorney wouldn’t discuss his client’s case or criminal history, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize the outcome.

Today, the Allens are left with their memories. Beth recalls how her son — cheerful, popular and fun-loving — would sometimes pick her up and spin her around.

“He was just a kid at heart,” she said.

From age 5 on, Christian loved football, and he played it aggressively. A starter for the East Mecklenburg football team, the 6-foot-3 defensive end won all-conference awards and never missed a game.

He wanted to be a police officer, his mother said.

“He felt like he could make a difference,” Beth Allen said. “He always said, ‘I’m not going to be one of those stuck-up police officers who give kids tickets for hanging out in the streets and underage smoking. I’m going to be the one who does some community outreach to give them a break and let them know they have an outlet here.’ ”

Beth Allen holds a photo of her late son, Christian Allen, an East Mecklenburg high school student who was shot to death at a party in 2017. John D. Simmons

A federal check showed that Olguin bought his handgun nine days before Christian was shot to death, a prosecutor said at a 2018 bond hearing. Had Olguin been convicted on any of the prior felony gun charges, he would not have been able to buy the gun legally.

The Allens think tougher prosecutions on the earlier gun charges might have altered Olguin’s course.

“If Carlos had been in prison, or had spent time in prison, this probably wouldn’t have happened,” Beth Allen said.

Ames Alexander, an investigative reporter for the Observer, has examined corruption in state prisons, the mistreatment of injured poultry workers and many other subjects. His stories have won dozens of state and national awards. He was a key member of two reporting teams that were named Pulitzer finalists.