By Sarah Gregroy
The preliminary hearing in the case against Jose Epps, Sergio Gamino, Jeremy Nguyen, Jorge Trujillo, and Jessica Nguyen was presided over by Judge Samuel T. McAdam in Department 7. All of the defendants are juveniles except Jessica Nguyen, who recently turned 18 years old.
All five defendants are charged with attempted murder and participation in criminal street gang activity for the benefit of a criminal street gang. The principal core of contention was whether the defendants premeditated the alleged attempted murder of a 14-year-old boy on June 23, 2016, in front of the Yolano Recreation Center.
The investigating officer with the Woodland Police Department and Yolo County Gang Task Force was the first to testify in today’s proceedings. The prosecutor, Deputy DA Robin Johnson, asked him to recount a few statements that he took from individuals involved in the alleged attempted murder.
First, the detective recalled statements he took from Jessica Nguyen as well as one from a witness who was at the scene of the incident as it occurred. Jessica Nguyen drove to the “Four Corners,” also referred to as “The Block.” Both are nicknames for the area of West Cross and Cottonwood Streets in Woodland, to pick up her brother, Jeremy Nguyen, and a friend of hers. This friend is the other witness who made the statement the detective recounted.
According to the testifying witness, Jessica found her brother visiting with three other boys. One of them, Jose Epps, she did not know the identity of at the time. Jessica’s brother, Jeremey Nguyen, asked his sister to take him and his friends to get dinner. Jessica ended up driving the four boys and her friend to In-N-Out Burger east of town off Road 102 and driving back to “The Block” to eat.
Afterwards, all of the young boys – her brother, Jose Epps, Jorge Trujillo and Sergio Gamino – asked Jessica and her friend to consent to driving through the Yolano area, which is on the east side of Woodland near the Yolano Rec Center on Lemen Avenue.
On Lemen, Jessica’s friend noticed a boy, the alleged victim, waving his arms in the air at their vehicle as it passed by. Trujillo, one of the four boys in the car, immediately recognized the boy on the street. That is when all four boys decided to jump out of the back of the vehicle and run toward the alleged victim.
The witness reported seeing a knife with the handle clipped to the alleged victim’s belt.
A little way down the road, Jessica made a U-turn and went back to pick up the boys. As she did so, she saw the alleged victim chasing one of the boys around a light pole and the other boys apparently fist fighting the alleged victim’s friends.
After the fight, all four boys ran toward Jessica’s oncoming vehicle. One of the alleged victim’s friends was still chasing the boys. Trujillo was the last boy to enter the vehicle. The boy chasing them prevented Trujillo from entering and pulled him down to the ground. Jeremy Nguyen and Sergio Gamino jumped out of the vehicle and shoved the boy off Trujillo, which led to their successful escape.
Jessica drove off with all four boys and her friend still in the vehicle. She dropped off Gamino, Trujillo, and Epps at their homes and drove with Jeremy back to her friend’s house, off Clover Street, to the west of where the incident occurred. The detective stated that he was familiar with that area due to surrounding gang activity.
Jessica’s friend told the detective that she was emotional during the entire incident. When they were safely in front of her home, Jessica tried to calm her down. The witness never referred to the four boys as gang members, but indicated that the alleged victim and his friends were “Southerners.”
The “Four Corners,” where Jeremy, Gamino, Trujillo, and Epps were found, is part of the territory of a criminal street gang, the Norteños. Whereas the Yolano area, where the incident took place, is part of the territory of a rival criminal street gang, the Sureños.
The reason the four boys wanted to drive through the Yolano area is still unknown. The prosecution plans to use the possible reason to suggest the alleged attempted murder was premeditated.