Pedro Alvarez, Jr., 29 of Ceres, has been convicted of aiding and abetting a 2009 gang killing and sentenced to 13 years state prison by Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar who prosecuted the case said Alvarez and other Norteno gang members were on the hunt for rival gang members on July 4, 2009.
On Tuesday, April 2 Alvarez pled no contest to aiding and abetting in the unlawful killing of another for the benefit of a criminal street gang, a “strike” offense under California’s “Three Strikes” law, which can be used to double any future felony convictions Alvarez may receive after being released on parole.
At approximately 9:50 p.m., Alvarez sat in the front passenger seat of a car driven by Abel Rodriguez and carrying a fully-automatic machine gun. They drove to a house in west Modesto after receiving a tip that rival Sureno gang members were having a barbeque in a front yard. Rodriguez stopped in the street in front of the house, rolled down his window, turned off the headlights and fired his machine gun into the crowd, striking three people. One rival Sureno gang member and an innocent bystander were seriously injured. An innocent bystander, a migrant laborer, was shot three times in the back and killed.
After leaving the scene, Rodriguez led responding Sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed pursuit southbound on Highway 99. During the chase, the driver handed the machine gun to Alvarez, who threw it out the window. At the West Main Street exit in Turlock, Rodriguez lost control of the car and crashed. Both occupants were removed and arrested.
A shell casing found on the floorboard of the car matched 12 other shell casings at the scene of the shooting. The gun Alvarez threw out the window was recovered by law enforcement and determined to be the firearm used in the drive-by.
After his arrest, Alvarez admitted being a Norteno but lied about Rodriguez doing the shooting. During Rodriguez’s jury trial, defense gang expert Jesse DeLaCruz testified, insinuating that another gang member was responsible for the shooting. DeLaCruz was a long time Norteno Nuestra Familia prison gang member who has since dropped out of the gang and now regularly testifies in gang cases for the defense. He was paid $10,000 for his testimony.
On March 28 a jury convicted Rodriguez of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder with firearm and gang enhancements. A court trial on Rodriguez’s prior felony convictions is currently set for April 4.