Aguilar guilty for shooting and special gang enhancements

April 17, 2009
Santa Paula News

A jury found a 20-year-old gang member guilty for the December shooting of another area resident, a crime that was committed in broad daylight outside the victim’s home.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesA jury found a 20-year-old gang member guilty for the December shooting of another area resident, a crime that was committed in broad daylight outside the victim’s home.Jurors began deliberating on Wednesday and announced they had reached a verdict later that same day.David Benavides Aguilar, of Santa Paula, was on trial for assault with a deadly weapon with force likely to cause great bodily harm, committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang and premeditated attempted murder.An admitted gang member, Aguilar, was accused of shooting John Rochelle in the thigh on Dec. 21, 2008 as he walked to his Santa Paula cul-de-sac home.Rochelle, according to Santa Paula Police, was not a gang member.Aguilar was arrested by the SPPD two days after the shooting at his Acacia Road home.Prosecutor Joann Roth told the jury during closing arguments that Aguilar was “hunting” for rival gang members and when he saw Rochelle, who is not a gang member, Aguilar exited his vehicle and challenged Rochelle to a fight.Aguilar told Rochelle if he did not fight he would be shot.After an exchange of words Rochelle started to walk away when Aguilar fired on him three times.A former gang member – then Rochelle’s neighbor – was standing nearby and witnessed the shooting.
Although the former gang member assisted Rochelle after he was shot, he did not tell SPPD Investigators what had occurred … but he slipped Rochelle’s mother a note identifying Aguilar as the shooter.The witness was put into the witness-relocation program for his protection after his testimony.According to trial testimony, Rochelle, who had attended school with Aguilar, initially did not tell police who had shot him due to fear of Aguilar, but he identified his assailant while being interviewed by SPPD Officers at the hospital.Aguilar’s lawyer, Clifton Reed, told jurors that his client had alibi witnesses, no weapon was found nor was there any gunshot-residue evidence. Reed also questioned the motives of the witness he described as a thug and liar.Aguilar will be sentenced at a later date and SPPD Sgt. Ish Cordero said he could be facing a life term due to Aguilar’s criminal record and the severity and circumstances of the shooting.Gang enhancement charges, he added, were attached to all the charges against Aguilar, and “He’s looking at a substantial amount of time,” behind prison bars.It was the “Hard work of investigators and officers in addition to the victim and witnesses that came forth,” that led to Aguilar’s rapid arrest and conviction on the charges.“This goes to show,” Sgt. Cordero noted, “that people are upset and are not going to tolerate these kind of crimes committed by gang members … ”Other investigations are taking place “Because there are other gang members involved that hopefully we’ll be able to make a case on … we hope this sends a message to gang members out there that they are looking at substantial sentences once they are convicted of their crimes.”Sgt. Cordero said there are numerous other gang members associated with Aguilar who “Are incarcerated at this time, including for homicide. We’ll continue to investigate all gang crimes, but it takes time.“But slowly,” he added, “we’re chipping away at it and will ultimately make cases against these people.”

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