By Sarah Gregory
Detective Aaron Moe, a member of the Yolo County Gang Task Force, testified to the indicators of Alejandro Loza Quezada’s gang membership. Moe had been recalled from the previous day for further testimony. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes, asked Detective Moe about the only witness from the shooting that occurred on July 1, 2016.
The witness is a Woodland resident who happened to live on the street where part of the shooting occurred. The witness, who will be referred to as “HL,” was driving southbound on his street when he saw a dark-colored sedan driving northbound. HL reported that the dark-colored sedan was swerving and, as it was passing him, he locked eyes with the driver and observed that the man seemed scared.
HL also observed two men waiting in the middle of the road for the vehicle, one of which was holding a gun. As the car approached, the man with the gun took aim at the dark-colored sedan and fired. HL said he was about 10 feet away from the shooter as this occurred – close enough to be able to lock eyes with the shooter as well.
The description of the men in the roadway was fairly detailed. HL stated that the shooter appeared to be Hispanic, and he had a lean frame, had his hair slicked back into a ponytail, and was wearing a white t-shirt with dark blue jeans.
HL also described the other man in the street as stocky, short, and wearing a dark shirt, Hispanic as well. The description of the shooter is similar to the appearance of the defendant.
After HL witnessed the shooting, he drove to his house down the street and locked himself inside. A short time later, both men showed up and began pounding on HL’s front door, yelling, “It’s me! Open up!” When HL did not respond, they went to the side of the house, kicked down the gate leading to the backyard and jumped the north fence.
The prosecutor asked Detective Moe if he was familiar with a Steven Gutierrez. Gutierrez was, in fact, the previous occupant of HL’s home. Moe replied that he was familiar with the name and that he knew Gutierrez to be a known associate of the Norteños, a street gang originating in Northern California.
Next, the prosecutor revealed People’s Exhibits #13 and #16 to the court in order to build Det. Moe’s credibility. The prosecutor asked Moe to identify the exhibits. He stated that the exhibits held photos of different men.
Among the men listed was Roberto Rojas, a known member of the Norteños. Moe indicated that Rojas is a gang member because he was wearing red and has a tattoo of the number 14, which are both gang identifiers for the Norteños.
The prosecutor focused on the defendant and asked Detective Moe if he was aware of the defendant’s previous contact with law enforcement. Moe stated that, because he researched the defendant, he was able to find every single incident where the defendant made contact with law enforcement.
For example, in July of 2008, an officer performed a car stop on the defendant, who had been driving at the time. The only passenger was one of the defendant’s brothers. In the report of the incident, the officer noticed the defendant was wearing red.
In another instance, in January of 2010, another officer performed a car stop because of a defective brake light. The defendant and two of his brothers were in the car.
When the officer came close enough he immediately smelled marijuana emanating from the vehicle. All three occupants admitted to smoking a “blunt” earlier in the day.
Only one of the defendant’s brothers reported a weapon on his person during the standard pat-down. The weapon was a cue ball wrapped in a rag. The officer assumed it would be used to inflict blunt force trauma.
The prosecutor asked if Det. Moe knew the defendant’s brothers to be gang members. Martha Sequeira, the defendant’s attorney, objected to this question because of its lack of relevance to her client.
Judge Reed asked the prosecutor to rephrase the question. Instead, the prosecutor asked how often Moe sees family members in the same gang. The defense argued that family members do not have to belong in the same gang. This line of questioning was abandoned.
The prosecutor inquired as to what research Moe did while investigating the defendant’s background. Moe stated that he had looked up the defendant’s Facebook account and saw photos that suggest the defendant is associated with the Norteños.
The prosecutor presented these photos to the court in People’s Exhibit #12. Moe was asked to describe each photo. In several of the photos, the defendant is shown wearing red and displaying either the number 14 or the letter “B.” All are validated gang identifiers.
The prosecutor presented People’s Exhibit #17, which are pictures of the defendant’s tattoo, taken after he was arrested. The picture shows the word “capitan” across the defendant’s left forearm with the letter “n” highlighted in red ink. The highlighted “n” suggests an association with the Norteños.
Next, the prosecutor asked for Moe’s opinion about whether or not the defendant was an active gang member at the time of the shooting on July 1, 2016. Moe replied that, based on the Facebook photos, the tattoos and the defendant’s apparel at the time of his contacts with law enforcement, he would agree that the defendant is an active gang member.
The prosecutor then asked if the testimony of the defendant’s girlfriend would bolster Moe’s opinion of the defendant’s gang membership. The defendant’s girlfriend had previously testified that the defendant is a drug dealer and has sold drugs to verified members of the Norteños. Moe responded that this fact does strengthen his opinion of the defendant as an active gang member.
If the defendant is the shooter, then Daniel Vallejo, a friend of the defendant, is suspected of being the man standing next to him in the roadway on July 1, 2016.
People’s Exhibit #18 shows photos of Vallejo’s tattoos. Vallejo has a Boston Red Sox “B” tattooed on his left bicep and 4 dots on his left elbow as well as one dot on the other suggesting the number 14.
Detective Moe believes that, based on these photos alone, Vallejo is an active associate rather than a member of the Norteños.
People’s Exhibit #19 illustrates the tattoos of another known gang member, Daniel Bravo.
The prosecutor asked Moe if he was familiar with monikers and asked him to explain what a moniker is. In relation to gangs, a moniker is a nickname or alias some gang members use for various reasons. Daniel Bravo’s moniker is “32.”
Bravo also has one dot on his right hand and four dots on his left knuckles, indicating the number 14. Moe also believes Bravo is associated with the Norteños.
Next, the prosecutor presented a detailed hypothetical for Detective Moe. He proposed a scenario of two individuals in the front seat of a car, driving through a residential neighborhood. These two individuals are referred to as “A” and “B.”
Another car approaches from behind them with the same set up. These individuals are referred to as “C” and “D.”
Both C and D are wearing blue hats and refer to A and B as Norteños. D identifies himself as a member of the Sureños. The Sureños is the rival street gang of the Norteños.
A and B open fire on C and D in the car behind them. C and D respond by giving chase. Somehow, A and B end up doing the chasing, eventually stopping their vehicle and stepping out.
C and D stop, as well. D steps out and raises his gun. Suddenly, A fires 12 shots toward C and D. C is killed. Then A and B run to a home where a gang member used to live in order to hide.
The prosecutor continued the hypothetical, strictly focusing on A, which indirectly refers to the defendant. He told Det. Moe that A is in possession of two semi-automatic pistols and four magazines, two of which are extended. The prosecutor asked if it would be safe to assume that the guns in that scenario are being used for gang activity. Moe replied that he would agree with that assessment.
The prosecutor asked if the killing of C would have been done to benefit the Norteños. Moe stated that, based on the fact that the shooting occurred between two rival street gangs, it is possible that the killing of C, a Sureño, would have benefited the Norteños.
Next, the prosecutor asked if gang members typically commit crimes together. According to Moe’s experience, gang members do tend to do this, in order to intimidate others.
The defense began her cross-examination. Ms. Sequeira asked Det. Moe how he determines a witness’s credibility. If the individual displays consistency, relays facts and has a specific involvement in the case, that witness is considered reliable. Specifically discussing the defendant’s girlfriend, Moe would determine her credibility based on her direct relationship with and personal knowledge of the defendant.
The defense also inquired as to how many cases Moe has testified in where the defendant was an active gang member. Detective Moe stated that he has only testified under that specific circumstance five times.
The defense will continue the cross-examination tomorrow on August 5, 2016.