The trial of a Modesto man accused of gunning down a Turlock teenager, who was mistakenly taken for a rival gang member, resumed Monday with the prosecution trying to prove their charge that the shooting was done to benefit a subset of the Sureno street gang.
Luis Manuel Tafolla, 22, is facing charges of attempted murder, assaulting a person with a semiautomatic firearm and participating in a criminal street gang for the April 30, 2007 shooting of Eric Carrillo. The gang enhancement attached to the attempted murder charge could result in a longer prison sentence for Tafolla if he is found guilty.
Carrillo, who was 17 at the time, was shot while walking at night along South Avenue near Wakefield Elementary School in Turlock. Carrillo was left paralyzed from the attack.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office says Tafolla targeted Carrillo because he was wearing a red Atlanta Falcons jersey and Tafolla, who was a Sureno, was looking to exact some revenge for a drive-by shooting that happened weeks before at a friend’s house. Carrillo was not affiliated with any gang.
Taking the witness stand Monday to prove Tafolla’s gang connection was Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Froilan Mariscal, a recognized gang expert for the county.
Mariscal testified he uses 12 criteria for establishing gang affiliation and that meeting two or more could document an individual as a gang member. Tafolla met nine of the 12 criteria, Mariscal testified. Among the criteria Tafolla met were prior interviews between himself and law enforcement in which he “claimed blue” the color associated with the Surenos, Mariscal said.
Mariscal testified that the shooting of a supposed rival gang member benefitted the Sureno gang by giving them a meaner reputation on the streets, which in turn helps them control their territory and the people living in those neighborhoods.
“The more violent a gang or gang member is, the more respect they have,” Mariscal said.
Tafolla is the last of four men to be tried for the shooting. In previous court proceedings Armando Zaragoza pled no contest to being an accessory and Marco Antonio Moreno Robles was found guilty of attempted murder and being an accessory. Ricardo Ordaz has agreed to a plea deal with the district attorney’s office that in exchange for his testimony he would be treated as a juvenile and held in custody until he is 25 years of age. Ordaz is currently 22 years old.
The prosecution believes the men came to Turlock to shoot any Norteno they could find in retaliation for a drive-by shooting that occurred at Ordaz’s house weeks earlier. Ordaz testified Tafolla wanted to do the shooting because that would automatically make him part of the Westside Via Locos, a subset of the Surenos. The other way of getting into the gang is to be “jumped in,” which Ordaz explained is a 13 second free-for-all beating of the prospective gang member.
Ordaz was in the car with Tafolla when they spotted Carrillo and testified he saw Tafolla get out of the car and approach Carrillo. Ordaz said he heard Tafolla ask Carrillo what gang he claimed and when Carrillo said he didn’t bang he heard Tafolla say he was a Sureno and fire the gun. Ordaz testified he didn’t see Tafolla shoot the gun, but only heard the shots and was handed the gun when Tafolla got back into the car. The gun was subsequently sold to man in the Bay Area, Ordaz said.
The defense has been attempting to discredit Ordaz as a witness by implying he had more of a motive for the shooting since it was his house that was targeted in the drive-by shooting.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Wednesday.