LOS BANOS - Whether there were two shooters or one at a Los Banos park in December when Sureños gang members arrived and allegedly killed a member of a Norteño street gang was the focus of a five hour preliminary hearing Wednesday that included police testimony and a reluctant witness who was with the alleged perpetrators at the time of the incident.
The hearing has not been completed. Proceedings will continue next Wednesday.
Diego Leal, 18, and his attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum listen to testimony at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing. The teen is being tried as an adult with his co-defendant, 16-year-old Fabian Roman for the Dec. 7 murder of Raymond Sevilla, 17, at Dos Amigos Park.
Diego Leal, 18, and Fabian Cruz Roman, 16, are being tried together, both as adults, for the Dec. 7 shooting death of Raymond Sevilla, 17, of Dos Palos. Leal was 17 when the incident occurred. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.
According to court testimony, Roman, whom authorities have said is a member of a Sureño criminal street gang, and Leal arrived at Dos Amigos Park in the 2200 block of San Luis Street with friends. They encountered Sevilla, a member of the Norteños criminal street gang, and others sitting at a picnic bench.
Detective-Sgt. Ivan Mendez testified Sevilla was with Jonathan Garay, Christopher Bagu and Alexander Rodriguez at the bench just before 7 p.m. Rodriguez told Mendez several people approached the park.
Mendez said one person from the group approached the people on the bench and asked to which gang they belonged.
According to testimony, Rodriguez heard shots being fired and started running north with Sevilla toward San Luis Street. A bullet struck Sevilla in the back and killed him.
Detective Ramon McDonald testified that Garay told him he saw a person attempt to pull a handgun from his waistband but it was stuck. Garay ran and shots started being fired, McDonald said.
Garay attempted to hide in the playground area of the park and was pistol whipped by someone.
Whether there were two shooters or one is in dispute. School Resource Officer Dusty Norris testified a Pacheco High School student approached him with information that he was in the area and heard two different sets of shots fired.
Leal’s attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, and Roman’s lawyer, William Davis, questioned whether the group sitting in the park argued with the group who was approaching the area. It was also revealed that Garay had a BB gun sitting on the table at the picnic bench before the shooting. The defense attorneys questioned whether the gun could appear to be real in the dark. They also theorized that Garay shooting the BB gun could account for any second set of shots that were heard.
Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby subpoenaed Oswaldo Mendoza, who also took the stand Wednesday. He admitted to not wanting to testify.
Mendoza said he was with Leal, Roman and others at Leal’s home the evening of the shooting. Someone said they “wanted to take a walk” and Leal had a gun, Mendoza testified.
Tenenbaum said his client, Leal, did not come up in Mendoza’s first interview with police. He said it was the second interview with law enforcement that Mendoza mentioned Leal having a gun.
Tenenbaum portrayed Mendoza and Roman as close friends and Leal as a mere acquaintance.
“When you were talking to police you knew your good friend Fabian had shot the men at the park, correct?” Tenenbaum asked.
“Correct,” Mendoza answered.
Outside of court, Davis said he was not worried about Mendoza saying his client was the shooter. Davis questioned Mendoza’s credibility.
Colby, who is prosecuting the case, said no plea bargains have been offered to either defendant.
The preliminary hearing will resume at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. at the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center in Los Banos.