A Merced County Superior Court jury has convicted a 28-year-old gang member of the murder of one man and the attempted murder of a woman in Delhi in 2016.
Juan Gonzalez,28, a member of the Ghost Town Sureno gang, was found guilty of the murder of 23-year-old Abram Hernandez and the attempted murder of Sheila Koehn, 50, of Delhi. Hernandez and Koehn, who were boyfriend and girlfriend, were shot while walking home from a 7-Eleven store in the 15000 block of Shell Street in Delhi on the night of March 6, 2016.
The evidence against Gonzalez included video surveillance footage from the store and testimony from Koehn.
The video showed Hernandez and Koehn in the store around 10:30 p.m. and Gonzalez in the store at the same time. Gonzalez was then seen leaving in a white pickup truck.
Koehn testified that as they walked back to her house the same white pickup truck passed them and then circled around and passed them again. After the truck passed for the second time, Gonzalez pulled out a firearm and started shooting at the pair.
Koehn said Hernandez pushed her out of the line of fire and shouted for her to run. In the hail of bullets, seven struck Hernandez, while one wounded Koehn in the back of her leg.
Hernandez was taken by air ambulance to a local hospital, but his injuries were too severe and he was pronounced dead. Koehn has since recovered from her gunshot wound.
Within a couple days of the fatal shooting, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department identified Gonzalez as the suspected shooter. He was arrested by the sheriff’s SWAT team at his home in the 6800 block of Hinton Avenue in Delhi.
It’s unknown what prompted the shooting, though investigators believe Gonzalez was angered by the encounter he had with Hernandez at the store.
This is not the first time Gonzalez has been found legally responsible for causing the death of another individual. In 2009 he shot 17-year-old Saul Lopez at a party in Hilmar, causing a fatal injury for the Delhi teenager.
Gonzalez, who was arrested two days after the shooting, told investigators the gun belonged to Lopez and that it accidentally went off while Gonzalez was holding it. Gonzalez said he and Lopez were friends and went to the party together.
The bullet from the .22 caliber revolver struck Lopez in the abdomen.
There were several witnesses to the shooting, some of whom recalled Gonzalez stating he was sorry, according to Merced County Superior Court records.
None of the people at the party attempted to get Lopez medical aid. Instead he was dropped off at the intersection of American and Lander avenues, near the McDonald’s. He was found stumbling and bleeding at the intersection by a cousin and friend that he had called for help.
The Merced County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and found the seriously wounded teenager. He was air-lifted to Doctors Medical Center, where he later died from his injury.
Gonzalez entered a no contest plea in 2012 to a charge of voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement for using a firearm. He was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in state prison. He had been in jail since his 2009 arrest and with credit for good behavior, he was released from prison in 2015.
Gonzalez is set to be sentenced for the murder and attempted murder convictions on April 13. He is facing a possible life sentence.“We thank the jurors for their service and the citizens of Delhi who came forward to report this crime and testify about what they witnessed,” said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Nicole Silveira, who prosecuted the case. “Without good Samaritans like them, we would not be able to prosecute these violent gang crimes and make our community a safer place.”