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Saturday, 5 June 2010

triggerman in a gang assault that rocked Amador County on March 14 - leaving one teenager with a bullet hole in his face

20:45 | ,

suspected triggerman in a gang assault that rocked Amador County on March 14 - leaving one teenager with a bullet hole in his face, and another bleeding from the neck - appeared in court on May 27. Later that evening, parents and teens from the community gathered to hear about Amador's new gang task force. They also met former gang members in person, learning what could happen if Nortenos or Surenos are allowed to develop a following in the area.

It was 3:15 p.m. when Gilbert Zaragoza was brought into Amador Superior Court in chains. The 19-year-old Stockton man is facing two counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors believe that security footage from the Jackson Rancheria Casino depicts Zaragoza pulling a gun and firing on two known members of the Sureno street gang. Zaragoza is a member of the Nortenos.

During the hearing, Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe explained to Judge David Richmond that the only offer he was leaning toward extending to the defense fell in the ballpark of 25-years-to-life in prison. Zaragoza's attorney, Public Defender Kyle Smith, told the judge there was still one element of discovery evidence that he needed to review before he could adequately advise his client on accepting or not accepting possible plea bargains. Richmond gave Smith time to review the evidence, setting Zaragoza's next hearing for late June.

While gang experts classify the Rancheria shooting as a near-deadly example of "transient gang activity," or certified gang members from cities committing crimes while passing through Amador, some local cops have become increasingly alarmed by Jackson and Ione teenagers attempting to emulate gangs like the Nortenos. In the last year, a number of felonies, including several violent assaults, have been committed by young men from Amador County in the name of the Norte'os.

A new investigation headed by Riebe proved that known gang members from other areas are indeed communicating with Amador teens via online social networking sites. In one case, Riebe discovered that a Norte'o man in his mid-50s, with a Myspace account that glorified drugs and shootings, was regularly chatting with Amador teenagers as young as 14 and 15 years old. "What business does any man that age from another city have talking to teens in this community online?" Riebe pointed out to the Ledger Dispatch. "And then you add his gang affiliation into the mix, and it's even more disturbing."

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