Monday, December 3, 2012
C.A. Holds Gang Members Responsible for Killing of Confederate
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Four gang members were properly convicted of the murder of a fellow member who was killed when a rival gang member shot at them in self-defense, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday.
Div. Eight affirmed the convictions of Josue Mejia, Adam Perez, Carlos Hernandez, and Edwin Caseros for the first degree murder of Jesus Lorenzo, citing the “provocative acts” doctrine. The court also upheld their convictions for the attempted murder of Leonardo Pulido, the attempted burglary of his family’s residence west of Echo Park, and shooting at an inhabited dwelling.
The charges arose from an October 2005 episode involving the defendants, members of the 18th Street Gang, and Pulido, who was part of the Big Top Locos.
According to testimony, Pulido and Perez were friends in their school days, but had become enemies as they became older.
Perez joined 18th Street, as had his father. Both Perez and his father had been involved in prior incidents with Pulido, including two in which Perez allegedly attempted to run Pulido over after the two had exchanged insults.
Bought a Shotgun
Pulido said he purchased a shotgun after the second such incident and kept it under his bed. The day before the shooting, 18th Street members came to the apartment where Pulido and his family lived and said they were looking for him, and Pulido learned of the visit from his younger brother.
The shooting occurred at around 3 a.m., after the family was awakened by the sound of knocking on the front door. Pulido said he realized they were up to no good because they said they were looking for “Leo,” the name Perez knew him by, rather than “Bandit,” his gang moniker and the name universally used by his friends.
Looking out the window and seeing the men walking towards the back of the apartment where his bedroom window faced an alley, Pulido said he heard the sound of an object being thrown at the window. He retrieved his shotgun from under the bed, he said, and saw the shadow of an armed man climbing through his bedroom window.
Pulido, fearing for the lives of himself and his mother and brother, said he fired one shot. He reloaded, he testified, then fired at a car in the alley in order to frighten away anyone else who might have accompanied the shadowy figure, who turned out to be Lorenzo.
Pulido disposed of the shot in a park. He never returned to the apartment, and was arrested in March 2009.
Shortly after the shooting, police arrested Mejia, whom they found near the scene. His clothing was torn, and a revolver with six expended shell casing was found where police first observed him.
Caseros was arrested nearby. Hernandez, who had called Lorenzo’s girlfriend to tell her he’d been shot, was arrested in 2007, and statements he had made about the case to Lorenzo’s girlfriend and another person were admitted into evidence. The other person, a friend of Lorenzo, also testified that Caseros admitted involvement.
Police eventually concluded that Lorenzo and the defendants had gone to the apartment to kill Pulido for having “disrespected” 18th Street. Jurors agreed and found the defendants guilty.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bob Bowers Jr. sentenced the defendants, except Mejia, to life imprisonment without parole for the murder. Mejia, a minor at the time of the shooting, drew a 25-year-to-life sentence.
In addition, all of the defendants received life sentences for attempted murder and lengthy sentences on the other counts, enhanced due to the finding that the crime was committed for the benefit of a gang.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Douglas Sortino, writing on assignment to the Court of Appeal, said the provocative acts doctrine applied.
In doing so, he rejected the contention that the act did not apply because the deceased committed the only provocative act. The argument “fails because it views the incident far too narrowly,” the jurist said.
There was, he explained, sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that all of the defendants committed provocative acts by showing up at Pulido’s apartment with the intent of killing him, and—after failing to draw him out by knocking on the door and calling his name—moving along the side of the apartment towards his bedroom, before Mejia and Lorenzo climbed up toward the bedroom carrying guns.
“All of this conduct occurred before Lorenzo and Mejia climbed the wall to the bedroom window while armed with handguns. All of this conduct, especially in light of Perez’s prior attempts to run Pulido over with a car, was itself provocative. And Lorenzo’s decision to climb the wall and enter Pulido’s window, while ill-advised, was an entirely predictable outcome of the plan to kill Pulido once Pulido refused to come outside. Lorenzo’s conduct, although intervening, was not independent of the prior provocative conduct of his accomplices and thus does not exonerate them from liability for his death.”
The case is People v. Mejia, B229382.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company