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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Crossing out another gang's graffiti shows disrespect to that group and could lead to a violent confrontation or worse

14:33 |

 Crossing out another gang's graffiti shows disrespect to that group and could lead to a violent confrontation or worse, a detective testified Tuesday in the trial of three gang members accused of killing a Pico Rivera grandmother.

"It's complete disrespect to that gang. It's disrespect and needs to be answered," Detective Hank Ortega of the Sheriff's Operation Safe Streets Bureau said. OSS is the department's gang unit.
Ortega was a prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Angel Rojas, 21, Jennifer Tafolla, 24, and Richard Rolon, 25, at Norwalk Superior Court.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Kim asked the detective would he expect a confrontation to result if a private citizen tried to stop a gang member from spray-painting graffiti?
"Yes I do," Ortega said.
On Aug. 10, 2007, Maria Hicks, 57, was driving home when she spotted Cesar Lopez as he spray painted over Young Nation's graffiti on a wall at San Gabriel River Parkway and Woodford Street in Pico Rivera. She flashed the headlights of her Honda Element and honked at Lopez who investigators say is a member of the Brown Authority or Brown Assassins gang.
When the 24-year-old Lopez walked away from the wall, Hicks followed him in her vehicle.
The prosecution alleges that Lopez's fellow gang member, Rojas, got out of a Lincoln Continental and shot four to five times at the Element. Hicks was shot in the head and died three days later.
That night, Tafolla was driving the borrowed Lincoln carrying Rojas, Rolon, Lopez, Rolon's friend Christian Lechuga, a 14-year-old boy and his 13-year-old brother.
The District Attorney's Office charged Lopez, Rojas, Rolon and Tafolla with the murder.
But Lopez took a plea deal and isn't being tried. He will be sentenced after the trial of the other three.
The other witness on Tuesday was Gary Harmor from the Serological Research Institute in Richmond, which did the DNA testing from samples the sheriff's crime lab took from a spray paint can, a Tecate beer can and a Budweiser beer can.
Harmor said he found three possible sources of DNA from the spray paint can and DNA from one male on each of the beer cans.
He said DNA from the male suspects didn't match the DNA on the beer cans. The other males riding in the Lincoln in 2007 also didn't match, according to Harmor.
However, he concluded Lopez and Lechuga were minor contributors of DNA to the spray can.
Rojas' attorney, Anthony Garcia, subpoenaed Harmor for the trial.
But Kim, the prosecutor on the case, said the sheriff's crime lab only swabbed the button on top of the spray paint can and not the body of the can.
During a break in the trial, Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Cochran said the beer cans were found on the street but didn't specify if it was Woodford Street or San Gabriel River Parkway.
Jurors also got a short primer on gang terms and the gang subculture on Tuesday.
The graffiti Lopez crossed out on the wall was "YN" and "13".
Ortega said he wasn't aware of YN or Young Nation in 2007. He found out afterward and thinks it is a party crew.
But there was "13" after the "YN" graffiti. Ortega said "13" means the group is claiming to be a full-fledged gang. He hasn't verified that.
Having that number after a gang name means a group has the backing of the Mexican Mafia or La Eme, a prison-based gang that holds sway over many Latino gangs in Southern California.
While any tagging crew, party crew or group can put "13" to their graffiti, Ortega said it's simply not done.
"Because there would be repercussions if you're not backed by the Mexican Mafia and you're claiming it," he said.
"For all we know it's a kid who thought it's cool to put `13' up," Jeffrey Kent, Tafolla's lawyer, said.
Ortega, whose duties include investigating gangs in Pico Rivera, also gave a history of the Brown Authority street gang.
He said Brown Authority started out as a tagging crew around 1995. He estimated that by 2001 to 2003, the group was on its way to becoming a full-fledged gang since the members were possessing weapons and started a feud with Pico Viejo, a larger and older gang in Pico Rivera.
In 2007, Ortega estimated Brown Authority had 40 to 50 members. The group uses the number 21, or the letters, BA, BXA or BXA13.
"They commit assaults, vandalism, robberies, possession of firearms, narcotics (crimes)," he said.
The prosecution had expected to wrap up its case Tuesday but the defense hadn't finished with the cross examination of Ortega.:Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

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