by Monica Velez
The night of November 8, 2015, resulted in a 19-year-old Woodland resident, Ramon Aguilera, deciding to drink and drive, resulting in several collisions. He was in the Cadillac that would soon be his, with three other people – none of whom was severely hurt, with only one passenger having minor back pain.
Aguilera did not have a license at the time but said he had an appointment to get his license within the week of the incident. Curiously, the police did not charge him with anything related to driving without a license, instead charging him with eight other felony charges.
According to the Daily Democrat, the charges were violation of probation, evading the police, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, three vandalism counts and driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury.
Aguilera went to court for the first time in December of 2015 and then again in January of 2016, and both times the deputy district attorney declined to file charges and said the investigation was still pending. On the third court date, January 22, 2015, Aguilera’s mother said they reduced the charges to only three counts.
The DUI charge was dropped, and now Aguilera is facing two counts of felony assault charges with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily injury, and felony evading. After the last court date, the mother said she was relieved most of the charges were dropped, but then she was told gang charges were going to be added into the mix.
How did what stemmed from a DUI and reckless driving incident result in possible gang charges?
The Daily Democrat reported that Sergeant Brett Hancock saw Aguilera stop his car, throw up gang signs and then drive away, attempting to make a U-turn in the intersection of Community Lane and West Lincoln Avenue.
Aguilera said he does not remember throwing up any signs affiliated with a gang, saying he remembers flipping off the police officer. Aguilera denies being a gang member, but has been associated with a gang because he affiliates with some of the gang members.
“They always tried to validate (as a gang member) Ramon every time he’s gotten in trouble … but I’ve always fought, I fought hard to make sure that never happened,” said his mother.
Aguilera has some gang-affiliated tattoos on his arms. He had reached out to a tattoo removal program, which offered to try to remove them, and he said he just failed to follow through – but that he regretted his decision as a young teenager, of getting them in the first place.
“Just because he (Aguilera) talks to this one person right here doesn’t necessarily make him a gang banger,” said his mother.
The article in the Daily Democrat said Aguilera took the police on a high-speed chase on Main Street, and Sgt. Hancock saw the Cadillac going 60 mph in a 25 mph zone. Sgt. Hancock told the Daily Democrat that, while he attempted to stop Aguilera for reckless driving, the car sped up, going up to 80 mph.
Aguilera’s mother was at the scene, and was told by an officer that her son was not going faster than 40 mph.
Officers also told the Daily Democrat that the Cadillac hit a police car, “ramming” into it. As the Cadillac backed up, it almost hit a police officer that was standing outside of her patrol car. Two patrol cars were damaged, and were towed.
“Right before the crash happened I remember taking a left, I could have sworn I hit a tree, like ran into a tree and then they smacked into me, but they’re saying I hit two cop cars,” said Aguilera.
The pictures of the Cadillac showed dents along the driver’s side, but no damage was done to the passenger side. Aguilera said he knows “for a fact” they hit him too, because of the dents.
The police said they have evidence of gang slurs and of Aguilera throwing up gang signs on their dash cameras. However, Aguilera does not remember saying or making hand signals of anything affiliated with a gang, and he said he only flipped off the officers.
Aguilera said, on the night of the incident one of the officers told him to say something that would help them put him in prison. The mother said the police officers were being “jerks” to her, telling her she was lucky they did not pump him with lead and refusing to tell her if her son was okay.
The mother was told that Aguilera had drunk “a gallon of tequila” the night of November 8. After being tested, his alcohol level was 0.08, and Aguilera said he was blacking out, only remembering bits and pieces of the night.
A DUI, reckless driving or driving without a license charge would be the easiest, by the book and a straightforward case. There is no denying Aguilera was guilty of this charge, because drinking and driving, and driving while not having a license will always be against the law.
Why is it that these charges were dropped? Maybe it is because it would be harder to tie in gang charges with a simple DUI, and an assault charge makes it easier to prove gang affiliation, especially with Aguilera’s background and tattoos.
It is not illegal to be in a gang, but it is illegal to do gang-related crimes and activity. The question that arises is how is a DUI or high-speed chase considered gang related? And is that why those charges were being dropped, in order to be able to make the case related to gang activity?
Aguilera said he did not think any of the eight felony charges were going to be dropped, and was surprised with the outcome.
“I feel like they see me as just another gang case, honestly, and its weird how they just threw out my DUIs and stuff like that,” said Aguilera.
Aguilera’s mother said she wants her son held accountable for what he did, as she does not condone drinking and driving, saying he should be punished and suffer the consequences. However, now there are gang charges, something she believes her son is innocent of. Yes, he has association or affiliations with gang members, but he is not involved in gang activity or actually in a gang.
“That’s my fear, they’re not going to believe us,” she said. “They’re not going to believe a word he (Aguilera) says, period, cause they’re going to look at his background. They’re going to look at him and say, ‘He’s just another little thug on the street, lets get him off the street.’”
Aguilera said he does not feel like he has been fairly represented, with his case being postponed four months, and he has yet to talk to a lawyer. The district attorney has the power to postpone the case, investigating and piling evidence against him, while he is left wondering if he is going to be falsely accused of being a gang member.
“I feel this from the bottom of my heart right now, that Yolo County’s judicial system is racist against the Hispanic males, which my son is Hispanic and he is white,” said Aguilera’s mother.
Aguilera’s mother said that the court won’t see that her son was actually working a good job, that he helps out with his grandmother who was just recently diagnosed with cancer, or that he has nieces and nephews and a family that depend on him.
She is worried that the district attorney only sees her son as a conviction, or wants to make an example out of this case, knowing the gang issue in Woodland.
“I know that when they (district attorneys) get convictions, you know, they get money for those convictions, you know what I mean,” said Aguilera’s mother. “So they’re, of course, all going to work together to get those convictions, and I don’t want my son to be another dollar sign, this is his life.”
In the court hearing on February 16, 2016, Aguilera was finally appointed an attorney, and the preliminary hearing will begin March 16, 2016.