Saul Hernandez, the Ceres man convicted of gunning down a man on Crows Landing Road in revenge of a prior robbery on his brother, has been sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
Hernandez, 36, of Ceres, was found guilty on March 24, 2014 of first-degree murder conviction following a jury trial.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar said the fatal shooting of Alberto Beraza, 16, occurred because Hernandez believed that the teen had stolen his brother's cell phone on Crowslanding Road in south Modesto earlier on Aug. 22, 2011.
Hernandez's brother's wallet and cell phone were stolen by Norteno gang members who were staging a car wash fundraiser seeking to pay the funeral costs of a murdered known Norteno gang member. The brother reported the theft to Hernandez. Neither Hernandez nor his brother were involved in a gang but Hernandez drove to his Ceres home to fetch his 40 mm Glock handgun and returned to the scene at around 5:20 p.m. He said he wanted to retrieve surveillance video from a taco truck to pinpoint the robber.
While driving back to the scene in his white Audi at approximately 5:20 p.m., Hernandez spotted Beraza, who was wearing a red hat and walking by himself. Hernandez and his brother believed that Beraza was involved in the robbery so Hernandez stopped his car to let his brother out to confront the teen. A fist fight immediately ensued and Hernandez's brother was knocked to the ground and kicked in the face, resulting in a broken nose. Mangar said the brother was 5-foot-8 and weighed 160 pounds while Beraza was shorter and weighed less at 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds.
Hernandez retaliated by firing six shots at Beraza, striking him in the shoulder, the arm, twice in the back, once in the head, and once in the face.
"The defendant wanted revenge," said Mangar, "so he got his handgun and executed this 16-year-old boy in front of open businesses during rush hour on Crows Landing Road."
Following the fatal attack, Hernandez then drove by the car wash and fired his gun twice into the air in an effort to scare those at the car wash. Witnesses took down a partial license plate number on Hernandez's car.
Prosecutors say Hernandez drove back to Ceres to his home in the area of Blaker Kinser Junior High School where he washed up, changed his clothes, made plans to hide his car, ditched the weapon, and left in a second vehicle.
Hernandez's wife was stopped by police as she was trying to dump his car. But other family members pressured Hernandez to surrender himself so that his other relatives would not be charged with the murder.
Evidence was presented to the jury that, at the time of this murder, Hernandez had been on probation for giving a false name to a police officer and vandalism. Hernandez had kicked the door of a van that belonged to a grocery store manager after the manager had called the police to report Hernandez was selling fake immigration identifications to migrants.
The jury also heard that Hernandez had previously been granted immunity to testify against his uncle in a 2004 murder trial.
During the sentencing hearing, the victim's mother said she could not understand how an adult "could do that a child."