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Five Azusa Street Gang Members Convicted
In Murderous 2002 Crime Spree


October 15, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525


POMONA – Five members of an Azusa street gang were convicted by a jury in Pomona late today of multiple crimes, including murder and attempted murder, stemming from a 2002 crime spree in which two people were killed and two others seriously wounded, the District Attorney’s office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Camacho of the Hardcore Gang Division said the jury in Pomona Superior Court Judge Philip Gutierrez’s court deliberated five days before returning the verdicts.  The trial began on Sept. 10.

Two defendants convicted of murder face sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Camacho said.  The other three could be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.  The defendants, all of whom will remain in custody, face individual sentencing dates starting on Nov. 2.

Camacho said the defendants were with an Azusa gang and their crimes occurred in the east San Gabriel Valley city and surrounding unincorporated areas.  The crimes occurred from June to October 2002.  Besides the murder charges, defendants were variously charged with conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and attempted robbery.

The prosecutor said the jury convicted all defendants as charged and found true allegations of firearm use and street gang crime.  In the case of two defendants charged with murder, the jury also found true the special circumstance of multiple murder.

Camacho said Marco Antonio Salazar, 21, whose gang moniker is “Stutters;” and Robert Frank Ramirez, 28, whose moniker is “Thumper,” were convicted of both murders and will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Although filed as a capital case, the District Attorney’s office decided prior to trial not to seek the death penalty against either defendant.

Salazar is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gutierrez on Dec. 1, while Ramirez’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 2.

The other defendants are Donald George Sanchez, 22, whose street moniker is “Goofy,” Gabriel Rene-Diaz Aguilar, 28, known as “Downer,” and Miguel Sanchez, whose 21st birthday was today and is known on the street as “Minor.”  The Sanchezes are not related. Donald Sanchez and Miguel Sanchez are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10 and Aguilar on Nov. 2.

Camacho said one of the victims, Daniel Zamorano, 22, was killed in Azusa on Sept. 19, 2002.  He was stabbed to death.  On Oct. 22, 2002, the second murder victim, Marcus Gradillas, 36, was shot to death at his home in Azusa.

Other incidents included the shooting and wounding of Nadine Nowlin, who was shot in the back in Azusa in September 2002.  Camacho said the victim was shot because she is African American.  Another attempted murder victim was David Venegas, 32, the landlord of murder victim Gradillas.  He was shot a week after Gradillas was killed.

In closing arguments, Camacho told jurors that gangs like the one to which the defendants belonged can take over a community.

“It’s like a cancer that can’t be stopped unless we can do it in the courtroom” he said.

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