For nearly a year and a half after bullets flew and , there have been no public developments in the investigation into who killed Gonzalo Avalos, 19, Omar Cortez, 18, and Hector Flores, 20, on Dec 22, 2010 and left three others injured.
Now the authorities say they’ve got the perpetrators.
This morning, in 11 Bay Area locations and three cities who they say were members and associates of the 500 Block/C Street Gang. Together with an additional six suspects who were already in custody, the U.S. Attorney has charged 19 people with crimes relating to the murders in an indictment filed in federal court on April 24.
The investigation involved local, state and federal law enforcement into a crime the indictment characterizes as a violent dispute between rival gang members.
“This was ground zero for the 500 Block/C Street violence,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. “The violence must stop.”
The indictment charges that Joseph Ortiz, 22 (“Little Vicious”), of South San Francisco, Victor Flores, 20 (“Little Creeper”), of Petaluma and Justin Whipple, 19 (“Teddy”), of San Bruno shot at seven people who they believed were rival gang members in South San Francisco on Dec. 22, hitting six and killing three. Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 21 (“BG”), of San Mateo served as their driver, according to the indictment.
All four have been charged with racketeering murder and face the death penalty if convicted.
Ortiz is also charged with four additional attempted murders and a firearms offense related to a Dec. 18, 2010 shooting in Daly City.
Of the remaining defendants, 12 were charged with racketeering conspiracy in relation to the murders, facing life in prison, and three are charged with being accessories after the fact.
Clark Settles, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge in San Francisco, said the arrests and charges send an important message to gang members.
“Be looking over your shoulder because there’s a good chance we’re coming for your next,” he said.
The arrests will “have a significant impact on the gang,” said South San Francisco Police Chief Michael Massoni. “The people responsible for the murder are in custody.”
“I think there’s going to be a sense of relief in the community,” said Mayor Richard Garbarino. “Today’s news sends a huge message out there that the bad guys aren’t always going to get away with stuff, and if you continue, you’ll get caught.”
Garbarino, who stood behind the podium with the rest of the city council alongside South San Francisco and Daly City police and representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office and federal law enforcement officials at a large press conference called to announce the arrests and charges Thursday afternoon, said he didn’t know Homeland Security Investigations or the U.S. Attorney’s office was involved with the case until this morning. But the charges should buttress the community’s faith in the police department and elected officials, he said.
after being fired at by an assault rifle while trying to arrest one of the suspects in Petaluma, but their injuries aren’t life-threatening, Haag said. The White Pages list Victor and Ana Flores as the tenants of the home where the assault took place.
“This underscores how daring this gang is,” Haag said.
The mother and brother of victim Gonzalo Avalos say they’re happy the legal process is moving forward.
“It brought her back to the day when my brother was killed,” Ramon Olmos, 31, Avalos’ brother, said of his mother, Carmen Ruiz. “But now I think the true test is forgiving [the suspects]. God is a forgiving God, and we have to forgive them as well for what they did.”