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‘Smiling Shooter’ Reveals Motive Behind Sonic Drive-In Murders, Requests Execution

Roberto Silva Jr. was arrested before the shooting for stealing someone else's identity to buy burgers and corndogs at the Sonic Drive-In location where he later killed two people.

By Jax Miller
‘Smiling Shooter’ Confesses To Murders, Requests Execution

A Nebraska man dubbed the “Smiling Shooter” by the media has provided a motive behind why he killed several people — and is demanding to be executed.

On Monday, Roberto Silva Jr., 24, pleaded guilty to 15 charges in connection with the deaths of two people and the wounding of two others at a Sonic Drive-In, the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office wrote in a statement to Oxygen.com.

On Nov. 21, 2020, Silva “threw an incendiary device, ignited materials in a rental truck and opened fire” at the Bellevue, Nebraska fast-food restaurant.

Authorities identified the murder victims as employees Nathan Pastrana, 22, and Ryan Helbert, 28, according to the Bellevue Police Department. Two others, ages 18 and 25, were shot and later treated at a local hospital for their wounds, while an additional three people were able to flee to safety.

Silva was later dubbed the “Sonic Shooter” or the “Smiling Shooter” for the atypical facial expression depicted in his mugshot photo.

Roberto Silva Jr Pd

Prosecutors say that Silva confessed to the murders in letters sent to the office of Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov last October, according to Omaha.com. He had no plea deal in place.

Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Gage Cobb read two lines from Silva’s letter aloud at Monday’s court hearing.

“It is my understanding that you don’t have a motive for my actions in (the Sonic Shooting case),” Silva wrote. “My intention and motive was to kill the witnesses involved in (the identity theft case) to conceal the commission of that crime.”

Silva had been arrested for using someone else's payment methods to obtain food from the same Sonic restaurant just days before the shooting.

“Silva recently pled guilty to the charge of identity theft,” the statement read. “Silva illegally used another person’s identity and Sonic Drive-In mobile account to obtain food from the same Sonic three days before the shooting occurred. The judge sentenced Silva to six months in prison for that crime but credited him with six months of time served.”

Silva stole $57 worth of food on Nov. 18, 2020, and was bonded out of jail on Nov. 20 — one day before the deadly shooting, according to NBC affiliate KNOP News. His fraudulent purchases included a Queso burger, four quarter-pound hamburgers, six quarter-pound double burgers, and 12 corndogs.

The restaurant alerted authorities to the theft by fraud, and Bellevue officers confiscated three firearms from Silva upon his arrest, according to the outlet. Those firearms were still in police custody when the shooting took place.

Silva, who had a Nebraska state concealed-carry permit, drove a U-Haul truck to the Sonic restaurant and opened fire the day after he bonded out on the identity theft charges. When authorities arrived at the scene, the moving truck had been set ablaze.

Polikov announced his plans to seek the death penalty in Silva’s case on Jan. 24, 2022, according to their statement, and plans to continue to pursue it.

“Roberto Silva knowingly walked into a restaurant that day and killed two people and injured two others,” Polikov said in the statement. “The death penalty case will move forward.”

Plus, prosecutors say, the defendant also demanded his own execution.

“He stated, basically, in my words, that he wants to be executed,” said Polikov, according to Omaha.com.

The County Attorney’s Office told Oxygen.com that Silva’s letter in its entirety could not be released to the media because it had yet to be entered into evidence.

Polikov filed a “Notice of Aggravators” last February, outlining the aggravating circumstances surrounding the case, according to the statement from the attorney’s office. Factors included the killings being carried out in an effort to conceal other crimes and the “exceptional depravity” of the murders.

Three district court judges will be appointed by the Nebraska Supreme Court to decide whether or not the aggravating circumstances set forth by Polikov will be enough to warrant Silva’s execution.

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