A Fresno gang member has been found guilty of killing a rival and wounding the rival’s son on New Year’s Day 2014 – a daytime shooting that the prosecutor said was done to promote his criminal street gang.
A Fresno County Superior Court jury deliberated about two hours late Monday before finding Jessie Aguilar guilty of murder, attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a handgun. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on Nov. 30.
During the trial, prosecutor Elana Landau said Aguilar, 43, killed Frank Zapata, 59, and wounded Frank Zapata Jr., 36, outside a drug dealer’s home in southeast Fresno to avenge the killing of one of Aguilar’s associates.
The video doesn’t lie and it can’t be intimidated.
Prosecutor Elana Landau
In closing arguments Monday, Landau said Aguilar was a member of the Calwa Varrio Locos, a subset of the Bulldogs street gang. The Zapatas were associated with the Bond Street Bulldogs gang. The victims were shot around 11:40 a.m. Jan. 1, 2014, outside a home on Mono Avenue near First Street and Ventura Avenue.
Landau told the jury that the Zapatas went to the home to purchase drugs. But seconds after they stepped out of a van, they were shot, Landau said. The driver of the van saw the shooting and took off once Aguilar started coming toward the van with a gun in his hand, Landau said.
After the shooting, a wounded Zapata Jr. was able to stagger from the home to a nearby convenience store, where he received help.
According to Landau, the shooting stemmed from Aguilar’s belief that Zapata Jr. was somehow involved in the killing of Angel Vasquez, 26, a Calwa Varrio Locos member who was fatally shot Aug. 19, 2013, outside of an apartment complex on West Swift Avenue near Ashlan and West avenues in central Fresno. No one has been convicted in Vasquez’s killing.
Though Zapata Jr. was on the witness list, Landau said, he did not show up to court to testify.
The shooting happened around 11:40 a.m. Jan. 1, 2014, outside a home on Mono Avenue near First Street and Ventura Avenue
Because witnesses were reluctant to testify against Aguilar, Landau said, the best evidence came from the Mono Avenue home’s surveillance video cameras. The videos did not capture the shooting, but moments after the gunfire, Landau said a video shows Aguilar holding a gun and running toward a van that had dropped off the two victims. “The video doesn’t lie and it can’t be intimidated,” she told the jury.
In addition, in April this year, police confiscated a letter from one of Aguilar’s associates. Landau told the jury that Aguilar wrote the letter, known as a “kite,” from jail to inform the gang that he had done the shooting to avenge Vasquez.
Fresno attorney Eric Green, who defended Aguilar, however, said the letter could have easily been written by the associate in order to implicate Aguilar. This way, the associate could take over Aguilar’s leadership role in the gang, Green told the jury.
In addition, Green said the video evidence was not clear enough to prove it was Aguilar holding a gun. He also said there was no ballistic evidence to prove Aguilar did the shooting.
“We don’t see the shooting on the video, so we don’t know what happened,” Green told the jury. “That’s reasonable doubt.”