By Julia Urquizo
RIVERSIDE, CA – Three young men—Jevante Stewart, Dameontae Wright-Patterson and Lonzo Lee Ford —faced murder charges here in Riverside County Superior Court Tuesday related to a suspected gang killing on Sept. 16, 2017, of a 43-year-old male in Perris, CA.
However, an expert law enforcement witness testified he had little to link them to a gang other than a rap video.
The officer, working out of the district attorney’s office as an expert on gangs, said Tuesday that even if someone is not actively participating in criminal activity on behalf of a gang, they are subject to violence if they are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The officer’s previous testimony had partially centered around Stewart’s monopoly tattoo. When asked whether the tattoo symbolized any gang affiliation the officer replied that, by itself, it did not.
However, the officer added, “I would say in regards to Four Corner Hustler Crips it’s a common tattoo that several members share.” He pointed out he had seen the tattoo on more than one member of the Four Corner Hustler Crips.
The Four Corner Hustler Crips is the gang the three men on trial are accused of being affiliated with—the gang has, said the officer, been around since the 80’s and has members of varied age groups. The officer noted that a subset group is Murder Mafia, specifically for members that are expected to kill on behalf of the group.
The officer responded that he could not render an opinion as to whether Stewart was a member of the Murder Mafia or not.
The defense continued its line of questioning: “Mr. Stewart was a big homie, correct?”
The officer responded, “It would depend on the structure. There’s obviously in my opinion, some people above Mr. Stewart and people that would be below Mr. Stewart.” To his understanding, Stewart has been in the gang longer than Wright-Patterson and Ford.
The defense stated, “Mr. Ford was a young kid when the killing took place on Sept. 16, right?”
The officer replied, “I don’t remember the exact age. I wouldn’t call him a kid, I think he was a kid but young is relative.”
According to the officer, Ford had been a member of a previous gang called Tiger Lane before joining the Four Corner Hustlers.
Defense attorney A.C. Jones told the jury about the officer’s involvement with Wright-Patterson since 2013.
Jones showed picture evidence of four high profile individuals in the Four Corner Hustlers. The officer admitted he did not have any specific knowledge as to whether Wright-Patterson had ever met them.
The officer also contended that he had no specific evidence as to whether Ford was actually affiliated with the Tiger Lane gang and no evidence that Stewart was part of the Murder Mafia.
Defense attorney Jones noted the officer’s testimony acknowledges how murder justifies a tattoo within the gang and that Wright-Patterson had no tattoos alluding to murder.
Jones continued by asking the officer to define gangster rap.
The officer stated, “In this particular instance there were several known gang members referencing their gang in the video and he made references to shootings.”
Jones pointed out that Wright-Patterson’s participation in a rap video was one of the only things the officer used to form his opinion that Wright-Patterson was a member of the gang.
The jury trial is set to reconvene Thursday, Dec. 15.