SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

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SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  TumbleWeed on Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:03 am

10:00 PM PST on Saturday, January 26, 2008

By JOHN F. BERRY
The Press-Enterprise

SAN BERNARDINO - A suspected gang member could face the death penalty later this year if convicted in connection with the "dead presidents" killing, an intragang ambush in San Bernardino that left four dead and one wounded in 2000.

Opening statements begin Monday for John Adrian Ramirez, 34, who successfully withdrew a 2006 plea agreement saying he would cooperate with the prosecution.

According to his statement withdrawing the plea, Ramirez wrote that "things at the jail got difficult for me" once co-defendants Luis Alonso Mendoza, 31, and Lorenzo Inez Arias, 29, learned of his cooperation.

"I have already been stabbed in the throat while at West Valley Detention Center prior to the entry of the plea," Ramirez wrote. "This, where security is supposed to be better than state prison."

The trial for Mendoza and Arias will begin in the same downtown San Bernardino courtroom when the Ramirez case is concluded. Both trials -- including possible death-penalty phases -- are expected to last into the summer.

All three are charged in the killings of four fellow gang members and the wounding of a fifth in San Bernardino on July 9, 2000. The 2 a.m. attack in the 1200 block of Vine Street, near Mount Vernon Avenue, sparked community outrage and a 200-member procession renouncing violence.

Their fate is also historic: This is the first time the San Bernardino County district attorney's office has sought the death penalty against three defendants in the same case, Cheryl Kersey, San Bernardino County prosecutor, said.

Each defendant faces four counts of murder and two for attempted murder as well as the sentencing enhancements of deadly use of a firearm and committing murder in association with, and to benefit, a criminal street gang, records show.

The reference to "dead presidents" was attached to the case because the slain were all identified by authorities as high-ranking gang members.

Plea Deal

Ramirez was arrested in Sun City four months after the ambush while leading FBI agents and Riverside County sheriff's deputies on a 15-mile chase that began in Temecula.

On May 13, 2002, Ramirez pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, San Bernardino County Superior Court records show.

He then faced at least 60 years in prison, records show.

Attorney Robert Alvarenga, who is defending Ramirez, described his client earlier this month as a low-level gang member who did not have the power to order a killing.

Alvarenga said his unarmed client hid by a car in front of the Vine Street home that morning when gunfire erupted in the driveway behind the house.

He said Ramirez was at the home to receive a severe beating for his perceived disloyalty of failing to associate with old friends.

"He was there to 'get sanctioned' and divert attention from his own family," Alvarenga said. "It was a summons he couldn't ignore."

"It's stretching the truth to say Johnny Ramirez was abetting anything," Alvarenga said. "He just happened to be there because he was told to be there."

Separate Trials

Ramirez needs his own jury because of statements he made regarding Arias and Mendoza, Kersey said.

She declined to discuss his statements.

"We can't call Ramirez because he is a defendant, but we can introduce his statement in front of his own jury," Kersey said. "We can't call a witness the others can't cross-examine."

Attorneys spent much of 2007 jockeying whether to split the cases or have two juries in the same courtroom.

The defendants were separated last year when attorney Dean Picl, representing Arias, said he needed more time to prepare.

On Thursday, Picl said during his client's jury selection that there are advantages and disadvantages about following Ramirez. "If I had my druthers, I would rather have the first opportunity to cross-examine a witness I feel is lying," Picl said.

Nearly 800 prospective jurors were called, and about 500 filled out questionnaires, Kersey said.

Records show attorneys spent months whittling down that number to two juries.

Court records show the case took more than seven years to reach a jury for numerous reasons, ranging from new attorneys and pretrial motions to conflicting witnesses and jury selection.

Ambush

San Bernardino police said publicly that the close-range killings were planned and well-executed.

Earlier this month, Kersey described the killings as an attempt by a San Bernardino-based gang with 1,200 documented members to cleanse the ranks among affiliated gang leaders.

"It was an internal problem," she said. "It was a dispute over leadership."

She declined to elaborate.

Killed were: Marcelino Luna, 19, of San Bernardino; cousin Anthony Luna, 23, of Grand Terrace; and Johnny Agudo, 33; and his brother, Gilbert Agudo, 27, both of San Bernardino.

Armando Villasenor, then 23, survived gunshot wounds in the head and back.

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  dstrm300 on Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:36 am

SAN BERNARDINO - Two street gangs met to discuss retaliation shortly before a quadruple homicide occurred in July 2000 on West Vine Street, a witness in the so-called "Dead Presidents" case testified.

The witness, who is not being identified, was called to testify Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Members of the two gangs met at a home of one of the victims to talk about retaliating for the shooting death of Edward Vargas in May 2000 on West Victoria Street, the witness said.

Three vehicles left for the Meadowbrook Apartments in San Bernardino, but the lead vehicle that had the weapons lost the others on the freeway.

After a quick stop at the West Vine Street location, the other two vehicles continued on to the Meadowbrook Apartments.

After about an hour, Gilbert Agudo got a phone call that his brother, Johnny Agudo, was alone at a duplex on West Vine Street, the witness said.

The brothers were the presidents of the two gangs at the time, according to San Bernardino police.

Upon getting the call, Gilbert Agudo, and those in the two vehicles left behind, went to join his brother.

Some of the other members had been "acting real weird," the witness testified.

Sometime after midnight, the lead vehicle, a gray sport utility vehicle, showed up with the four charged defendants: Luis Alonzo Mendoza, Froylan Chiprez, Lorenzo Inez Arias and John Adrian Ramriez, according to the witness.

Police

reports indicate the vehicle was a dark sports car.

After gunfire erupted, four men died in the West Vine Street location: Johnny Agudo, 33; Gilbert Agudo, 27; Anthony Daniel Luna, 23; and Luna's half-brother, Marselino Gregory Luna, 19.

Two other men were wounded.

Because of the circumstances, some in law-enforcement circles dubbed the case "Dead Presidents."

Prosecutors told jurors on Monday that Johnny Agudo had been targeted for sharing information with police about another gang member.

Police also contend the shooting was a power play for control of the two gangs.

An unarmed Ramirez, his lawyer, Robert Alvarenga, told jurors, was told to be at the location and wanted to clear his name with the gang.

Ramirez is the first defendant to go to trial.

Mendoza and Arias are expected to follow in April.

Chiprez is a fugitive, prosecutors said.

Each defendant was charged with four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and gang allegations.

If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty.


So were they goin 2 ESV hood 2 ride on them or what?

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  TumbleWeed on Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:21 pm

This was some serious inner-beefs between some of the varrios on the Westside. SCO, 7TH ST, COUNTS, and Mt vernon.

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  dstrm300 on Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:37 pm

but I was askin if they was goin 2 ride on the ESV niggaz over n the Meadowbrooks cuz of what happened 2 that boy Edward Vargas, I was guessin he got killed by the ESV's becuz they was headed towards the Meadowbrooks

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Vargas

Post  Ty on Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:09 am

This was some serious inner-beefs between some of the varrios on the Westside. SCO, 7TH ST, COUNTS, and Mt vernon.

I have to agree with you Ryda. The paper also didn't say that Ed Vargas, Mars and Anthony was all brothers. The paper made it sound like they was on a mission to the Meadow Brooks, like it was a retaliation of some sort over there, but both shootings "Big Ed's" and the Agudos was ordered by the same people so who was they gonna hit in the Meadow Brooks? On top of that, Big Ed got killed what May 13th so two months later they decide to ride back? That's not how they get down over there. Everybody know if somebody hit up one of the Westside cliques be it 7th, Mt. Vernon or SCO they coming back quick. I don't know but if they was snitches and the targeted because of that, it still don't explain Big Ed. On top of that if it was true they was snitchin who let it slip? Sounds like a leak in the PD. Better get that sown up quick.

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  TumbleWeed on Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:32 pm

Well we all know how twisted these news articles/reporters can get sometimes. This was at a time in the Westside varrios where jealousy was taking over certain dudes in there.

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Story changing on Dead Pres

Post  Ty on Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:50 am

Witness: Others started trouble
Testifies `Dead Presidents' defendant wasn't instigator
By Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 02/06/2008 08:22:26 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO - A man on trial in the so-called "Dead Presidents" slaying case did not show up with a gun to start problems at a West Vine Street duplex, a witness told jurors on Wednesday.
"The problems were being brought to him," the witness said of defendant John Adrian Ramirez, under defense questioning in San Bernardino Superior Court.

The witness recalled hearing and seeing only two guns being fired, neither of them by Ramirez, in the July 2000 incident that left four men dead.

Still, the witness said the defendants wore dark clothing and gloves.

They also appeared puffy as if wearing bulletproof vests when they arrived at the residence.

Ramirez is one of four men charged in the shootings at the West Vine Street residence.

Two other men will go trial later this year. A fourth man remains a fugitive.

Those who died were Johnny Agudo, 33; his brother Gilbert Agudo, 27; Anthony Daniel Luna, 23; and Luna's half-brother, Marselino Gregory Luna, 19.

Two other men were wounded in the shooting.

The Agudo brothers were presidents of two local street gangs, police said.

Because of the circumstances, some in law-enforcement circles have dubbed the case "Dead Presidents."

Sometime before the shooting, Johnny Agudo reportedly struck, or "checked," Ramirez for cooperating with police about an earlier shooting at a San Bernardino movie theater, the witness said.

Ramirez didn't

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hit back, but the witness said tension among those involved rose afterward.
Defense lawyer Robert Alvarenga told jurors earlier in the trial that Ramirez was told by the gang to be at the Vine Street shooting, wanted out of the street gang, and was trying to clear his name.

Defendants Luis Alonzo Mendoza and Lorenzo Inez Arias are expected to go trial in April.

The fugitive, identified by authorities as Froylan Chiprez, is believed to be hiding in Mexico.

Prosecutors have said Johnny Agudo was targeted for sharing information with police about another gang member.

Police also contend the shooting was a power play for control of the two local gang sets.

Each defendant was charged with four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and street-gang allegations.

If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty.

Alvarenga also questioned the witness about a plea bargain he made in another case, where his sentence depends on his testimony in the "Dead Presidents" case.

But the witness told the court he would have testified anyway.

"Deep down inside, it's not right what happened to my friends that night," the witness said, under questioning by prosecutor Cheryl Kersey.

The longer this trial goes on, the more it looks like the DA is setting up another trial. If that is the case I would be willing to bet Big Wolf is gonna gonna be the featured attraction. If so, and he gets hit with conspiracy with multiple counts of murder and the racketeering charges that are already on the table. He's looking at a date in the green room at Q.

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  TumbleWeed on Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:36 pm

Yeah thats what it is, how I see it also. I agree.

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Dead Pres., prosecutor named county judge...

Post  Ty on Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:54 pm

Thursday, February 14, 2008
By JOHN F. BERRY
The Press-Enterprise
SAN BERNARDINO - A high-profile San Bernardino County prosecutor effectively won a spot on the Superior Court bench Monday when the filing deadline closed without anyone running against her.

"Thrilled," Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey said this week. "I'm happy I'm running unopposed."

Kersey, 42, has prosecuted several high-profile cases in her 17 years with the San Bernardino County district attorney's office. Her latest is a trial that has been labeled "the dead presidents" case, an intra-gang purge and ambush in San Bernardino that killed four in 2000.

Story continues below

This trial, expected to continue into the summer, is the first one in San Bernardino County where three defendants in one case could face the death penalty.

Kersey's six-year term as a judge begins Jan. 5, 2009, county elections official Mary Lou Mongar said this week. Kersey will appear on the June 3 statewide primary ballot as the only candidate in her race, Mongar said.

Kersey joins 21 San Bernardino County Superior Court judges who kept their seats Feb. 6 when no one filed to run against them.

Story continues below

"They will be appointed in lieu of an election," Mongar said. "They won't appear on the ballot."

Kersey will occupy a seat held by retiring Judge Douglas Gericke.

Story continues below

However, one judgeship left vacant by the retirement of Judge James Dorr drew three challengers.

They are Ben Echols, 71, of Apple Valley, and James Gass, 46, of Redlands, both private defense attorneys; and Brigid "Briye" McCann, 42, of Grand Terrace, a deputy district attorney in Fontana.

All three have clean records with the State Bar of California.

They will appear on the June 3 statewide election ballot, Mongar said.

The top two finishers will compete in a Nov. 4 run-off unless one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, she said.

Now this clears up alot concerning the trial and the publicity...

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  TumbleWeed on Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:40 pm

Dead Presidents' murder case goes to jury
Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/10/2008 10:39:09 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO - Wrapping up weeks of testimony about street gangs, investigations and evidence in the trial of John Adrian Ramirez, prosecutors sought to put a face on the West Vine Street killings of July 2000.

Prosecutors projected crime-scene photographs of bullet holes, cartridge casings and blood trails onto a large screen during closing arguments Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

But when photographs of the bloodied bodies of two of the victims, 33-year-old Johnny Agudo and his brother Gilbert Agudo, 27, flashed onto the screen, tears erupted from family members seated in the gallery.

"The bottom line is, this is a murder case. These are human beings," Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey reminded jurors. She advised them against seeing the victims as gang members who deserved to die.

Also killed in the shooting were Anthony Daniel Luna, 23, and Luna's half-brother, 19-year-old Marselino Gregory Luna.

"When you think about the facts of the case, they didn't deserve it," Kersey said.

One of four defendants in the so-called "Dead Presidents" case, Ramirez is the first to go to trial in the quadruple homicide outside a boarded-up duplex on West Vine Street.

The Agudo brothers were presidents of local street gangs, prompting some in the law-enforcement community to dub the case "Dead Presidents."

Prosecutors say the shooters followed orders and targeted Johnny Agudo for cooperating with police.
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The shooters also wanted to eliminate witnesses and any retaliation attempts by killing his brother, Kersey said.

The defense, however, describes Ramirez more like a witness, who was not armed and not a participant and at the scene to clear his name with the gang.

Kersey tore away at that argument, calling it "convenient and improbable." Authorities found 27 casings at the scene, from five different weapons. One witness testified he saw Ramirez with a gun all night.

Ramirez arrived at the duplex with the shooters in a car with loaded weapons and left with them after the gunfire, prosecutors said.

The defendant later met the rest of the crew in Mexico to hide out.

Kersey tried to poke holes in the defense theory that the shooters took Ramirez with them just to be a witness.

"That's what he wants you to believe. Does that seem probable to you?" the prosecutor asked jurors.

Defense lawyer Robert Alvarenga also recognized the victims' families in his closing argument.

"There is no apology that will ever suffice for the Agudo family and the Luna family. None," Alvarenga said.

He explained the case is built on a high degree of hearsay and rumor that would generally not be allowed.

Ramirez is being shown as guilty by association, for hanging around with what equates to other family members and childhood friends, the defense said. He also said prosecutors have branded Ramirez for what others have done.

Alvarenga denied his client's testimony was rehearsed, and he described it as "silly" for anyone to tell him that Ramirez intended to kill someone.

Ramirez is charged with four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two sets of special circumstances. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

In addition to Ramirez, two other men were arrested and charged as shooters: Luis Alonzo Mendoza and Lorenzo Inez Arias. A fourth man, Froylan Chiprez, remains a fugitive.

Mendoza and Arias are set to go to trial in April.

Simply being at the scene is not a crime, Alvarenga told jurors. When gunfire erupted, Ramirez ran and hid behind a car, Alvarenga said.

The shooting may have had a basis in alcohol, bad tempers, stupidity and ego, but it was not planned, Alvarenga said.

"The reality is no one really knows what happened," the defense lawyer said. "Nobody really knows why those people died."

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Dead Presidents

Post  JustMe on Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:55 pm

Unfortunately, too many people have tried to tell the story of what went down that night in July 2000... and sadly none of them can get the story straight. The newspapers have everything all twisted, the story is told one way and is repeated another. The only people who really know what happened that night on the WestSide are the ones that passed and the ones that took their lives. A power struggle, snitching, retaliation... it's all BS and at this point does any of it really matter, the fact that remains the same after all these years is that 4 young men died that hot July night, and they died at the hands of 4 other men... men who were supposed to be their "homies", men who visited their homes, talked to their families, kicked it and chilled and acted as if things were cool when really they only had hate in their eyes and fear in their hearts. Luis, John, Lorenzo and Froyd acted like little bitches that night... why cant they just man up and admit to what they did? Why put the families of the deceased thru more pain than what they've already gone thru?

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Dead President's and the San Manuels

Post  Ty on Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:50 am

Girlfriend takes the fifth in trial

Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/23/2008 09:27:55 PM PDT

A defendant's girlfriend, who is a local tribal member, asserted her right against self-incrimination and was granted a reprieve from testifying at trial Monday in the so-called "Dead Presidents" quadruple-homicide case.
Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith agreed with an argument from a Santa Monica-based lawyer representing Valerie Gonzales - the girlfriend of Luis Alonzo Mendoza - that having his client testify could expose her to possible prosecution, during proceedings in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Gonzales is a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Suspected street gang members Mendoza and co-defendant Lorenzo Inez Arias are on trial and face the possible death penalty in the slayings of four men in July 2000 on West Vine Street in San Bernardino.

Prosecutors argued that the statute of limitations passed after three years, freeing Gonzales to testify. But lawyer Daniel Brookman explained that anything Gonzales saw or did prior to the shooting could be an issue.

"There is the specter that there is an ongoing conspiracy in this case," Brookman told the court. Brookman said he encouraged his client to exercise her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The discussion about Gonzales' testimony was held outside the presence of the jury.

Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey said prosecutors planned to ask Gonzales about what occurred the day of the shooting, the car that Mendoza was

allegedly driving and where she was when the shooting occurred. They also wanted to know about her trip with Mendoza to San Diego after the shooting, as well as another trip she made in August of that year to see Mendoza in Mexico and Texas.
Smith said Brookman had a "legitimate concern" and added that any knowledge of the defendants' actions prior to the homicides "is potentially incriminating."

Deputy District Attorney Douglas Poston, who is prosecuting the case with Kersey, said they could not comment about the case with the trial in session.

Mendoza and Arias are on trial in the deaths of 33-year-old Johnny Agudo, his brother Gilbert Agudo, 27, Anthony Daniel Luna, 23, and Luna's half-brother, Marselino Gregory Luna, 19.

The Agudo brothers were presidents of two local street gangs. Because of those circumstances, some in law enforcement circles have dubbed the case "Dead Presidents."

Prosecutors have said Johnny Agudo was targeted for providing information to police and because of Mendoza's desire to control the gang.

Another defendant, John Adrian Ramirez, recently took a plea bargain, and a fourth man, Froylan Chiprez, remains a fugitive.

Mexican Mafia leaders, drug trafficking, gun running, money laundering, multiple murder case, assault, murder for hire, gang association. How many felonies they going to allow the Indians to accumulate before they make the tribal leaders clean things up? Just an example of the kind of treatment the rich get in comparison to the poor.

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  Shadowplay on Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:36 pm

I found this in the L.A. Times website. I haven't heard about this case in awhile and was looking around for info. on it. It's a very good article in my opinion; very descriptive. Makes me wonder what's accurate and what's not. Enjoy.

San Bernardino’s ‘Dead Presidents’ murder trial exposes gang intrigue, greed

By Sam Quinones
June 29, 2008

On the West Side of San Bernardino, most everyone knew Johnny and Gilbert Agudo.

They’d grown up in the tight-knit barrio.

Handsome and charismatic, they were the presidents of two cliques of the West Side Verdugo street gang: Johnny, 31, of 7th Street Locos and Gilbert, 27, of the Little Counts.

United, they led their gangs in feuds with rivals from other parts of town.

But then things took an unexpected turn.

Early on the morning of July 9, 2000, police responded to calls of a shooting behind a West Side duplex. The Agudos and two half-brothers, Marselino and Anthony Luna, lay dead or dying in what would become the biggest gang slaying in recent San Bernardino history.

Eight years later, the so-called Dead Presidents case is underway in a San Bernardino courtroom. Closing arguments are expected this week.

Prosecutors have charged Luis “Maldito” Mendoza, a boyhood friend of the Agudos and a 7th Street gang member, with organizing the killings. Also charged is a member of Mendoza’s crew, Lorenzo Arias. Both could face the death penalty.

Mendoza’s cousin Froylan Chiprez – another alleged shooter – is believed to be hiding in Mexico. John Ramirez, part of Mendoza’s crew, pleaded guilty and testified against Mendoza and Arias.

The arrests of Mendoza and the others shocked residents. All were members of Johnny Agudo’s 7th Street Locos. No West Side gang ever killed one of its own.

The Mendozas were from Mexico, while the Agudos were a Mexican American family with decades in the barrio. The arrival of Mexican immigrants had upset some Latinos in the neighborhood. But Mendoza’s brother was Johnny Agudo’s best friend and together they started 7th Street Locos.

“They grew up together,” said Cheryl Kersey, the prosecutor handling the case. “Nobody ever anticipated this.”

The story of the Dead Presidents is a tale of neighborhood bonds torn apart by power, betrayal and greed, prosecutors say. Behind it all, they say, is the Mexican Mafia prison gang, which in many Southern California barrios has turned gang members against one another.

“You grow up with somebody 15 or 20 years and he tries to kill you,” said a gang member who grew up with the Agudos and Mendozas, and requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Something’s wrong there.”

San Bernardino’s West Side is a flatland of wooden houses, small markets and vacant lots that has always been separate from the rest of the city.

The Santa Fe railroad, built in the late 1800s, divided the West Side from downtown. In the 1960s, the 215 Freeway, with offramps only heading east, “strangled the business district here, which was extremely active,” said Esther Estrada, a city councilwoman who grew up in the neighborhood.

But the West Side hung in.

Santa Fe’s train repair shop employed more than 1,000 people, most of them West Siders. Men also worked at Kaiser Steel’s factory in Fontana, or at Norton Air Force base.

Kids “never thought we were poor,” said Mercedes Agudo, the victims’ mother. “We knew it, but they didn’t.”

While gangs were a strong presence in the neighborhood when her kids were young, Agudo said, there were other diversions too. In the early 1980s, break dancing gripped the West Side and kept many kids out of trouble.

The neighborhood’s best dancers were in Breaking Crew, organized by Mercedes Agudo, and made up of her sons, Johnny and Gilbert, and numerous cousins and friends, such as Marselino and Anthony Luna.

One rival was the Mendozas’ Break Force, organized by Luis Mendoza and his older brother, Issa, who came from Mexico as children. The Mexican American kids chided them for how they dressed and their immigrant ways. Rival camps of youths developed.

“They were Mexicanos. They weren’t from here,” said Patricia Gonzalez, mother of Marselino Luna.

Yet the neighborhood united against outside threats.

In 1983, the school district moved to close Pacific High School. The West Side loved the school. Barrio kids anchored its top-flight wrestling team.

Angel Agudo, the Agudos’ elder brother, organized to save it. Mothers, grandfathers, even gang members got involved. But the district prevailed, and the school closed.

Then in 1984, Kaiser Steel closed, laying off dozens of neighborhood men. In 1992, Norton Air Force Base also closed, taking 10,000 jobs. Then, Santa Fe Railroad took its shop and a thousand jobs to Topeka, Kan.

New drugs arrived in the barrio.

In the early 1980s, said Mercedes Agudo, “the thing that really destroyed a lot of families was PCP” – an animal tranquilizer that makes humans impervious to pain.

Crack came in the late 1980s. Kids dealing dope replaced men with union jobs.

Youths stopped dancing to form gang cliques and feud over street corners. Families fleeing the L.A. gang-and-crack nightmare brought more of it to San Bernardino.

Violence skyrocketed. Many West Side youths went to prison.

Among them were Johnny and Gilbert Agudo. They began using PCP, became hardened gang members and were in and out of prison, authorities said. Johnny became president of the 7th Street Locos; Gilbert was president of Little Counts.

New immigrants began moving in. They took the menial jobs that neighborhood youths had counted as theirs. Old-time Mexican American families felt invaded.

Meanwhile, from prison the Mexican Mafia, known as the Eme, Spanish for the letter M, imposed new rules on Southern California Latino street gangs.

Through the 1990s, Eme associates directed gangs to tax drug dealers in their barrios. Disobeying meant death.

West Side gangs acquiesced.

“I saw a change within the gangs,” said Leo Duarte, a native West Sider and retired Mexican Mafia expert with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “When an [Eme member] sends orders, they comply. Every time somebody got out on parole, orders came with them: Get crews going, start taxing.”

The Eme replaced Kaiser and Santa Fe as the influential economic organization in West Side life, Duarte said. Obedience to it overrode barrio loyalty.

Who had “the keys” – Eme-ordained authority to run barrio taxing – became the predominant issue for once-independent gangs, Duarte said.

In 1999, Johnny Agudo was arrested with guns as he prepared to carry out an Eme-ordered killing, Kersey said in an interview.

To reduce his prison sentence, he told police that Salvador “Toro” Hernandez, a parolee, had guns and drugs at his house, Kersey said.

Hernandez, from Rancho Cucamonga, is a reputed Eme member who controls West Side drug dealing, according to Kersey, Duarte and West Side gang members. He was arrested with guns and drugs and went to prison for their possession, Kersey said.

In court, gang members and Kersey alleged that Hernandez allegedly put a “greenlight” – a death warrant – on Johnny Agudo.

A gang that doesn’t execute a member greenlighted by the Eme faces a greenlight on all its members, Kersey said in an interview.

Gilbert Agudo had “the keys” to the West Side, Ramirez testified in court. Gilbert volunteered to kill his brother, Ramirez testified.

No one believed he would, Ramirez said

“Gilbert was very good at politics,” Kersey said in an interview. “He was in the midst of talking people out of killing Johnny.”

Neighbors remember that while Johnny Agudo was in prison, Luis Mendoza took over 7th Street Locos.

Johnny Agudo was released from prison in July 2000. Mendoza offered to kill him if Gilbert did not, according to Kersey and court testimony.

The night of the killings, Mendoza and his crew met with the Agudos and others at the West Side duplex.

There, in a darkened driveway, men who’d grown up together faced off over the greenlight on Johnny Agudo and who would run the neighborhood for the Eme, according to court testimony.

Amid the argument, the shooters allegedly opened fire and mortally wounded the two pairs of brothers. Johnny Agudo died with a gun in his pocket.

“They were family,” said John Ramirez, who pleaded guilty in the case but claims to have done no shooting. “Everyone in it was family.”

Gilbert Agudo was killed to prevent his retaliation; the Lunas because they were witnesses, Kersey alleges.

Mendoza “knew if he did this for Eme, then he’d be in charge,” Kersey said in an interview. “He’d be running the streets.”

Eight years later, the West Side neighborhood remains weak and fragmented.

Since the killings, the Eme has had trouble finding trustworthy soldiers to step up and work the streets, Kersey said.

“Wipe out two brothers and it’s had an effect up to today,” she said, because “this code about not killing each other is out the window.”

Angel Agudo, whose family left the West Side, said he was not surprised when his brothers were slain.

Given their positions in the Eme, “you’re either going to go into the upper echelon or somebody’s going to take you out,” he said. “The greed, the envy, the struggle for power – it all ate away at the neighborhood unity.”

sam.quinones@latimes.com

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Re: SAN BERNARDINO: "Dead Presidents"

Post  P_LOKO on Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:36 am

Good find homie!

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