Closing arguments are scheduled Thursday in the trial of a reputed gang member accused of gunning down a young man in Indio after mistaking the victim as a member of a rival gang.
Shawn Anthony Wynn, 24, of Palm Desert, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the June 16, 2014, slaying of 20-year- old Juan Carlos Hernandez.
Wynn is charged with murder, criminal street gang activity and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also faces a special circumstance allegation of being an active gang member during the killing, but prosecutors in 2015 decided against pursuing capital punishment.
Two other men, Edgar Machado, 23, and Rick Steve Jaime, 25, and a teenager — all from Indio — were also arrested in connection with the shooting, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. near Lancer Gate and Merlin Drive in Indio’s Regency Park neighborhood.
According to Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante, Hernandez and two other men were hanging out in his parked Cadillac following a Father’s Day celebration when someone yelled “What are you doing here?” Two shots were then fired through the car’s rear window. One of the bullets struck Hernandez in the head, killing him instantly.
Bustamante told jurors in his opening statement Monday that Hernandez was targeted because he was wearing a hat bearing the letter “P,” a trademark symbol of a gang rivaling one to which Wynn allegedly belongs.
Bustamante said Hernandez had no gang affiliations.
“Something so simple as a hat cost Juan Carlos Hernandez his life,” Bustamante told the jury.
An SUV was seen speeding from the scene, and investigators used surveillance footage to determine that it belonged to Wynn. The SUV, with Wynn at the wheel, was found in Indio about a week after the shooting.
Bustamante said Wynn volunteered information on Machado and Jaime, but told police that he was at his girlfriend’s home the night of the shooting and did not belong to a gang. However, the prosecutor said Wynn was seen in photographs with his co-defendants, while wearing clothes that represented their gang.
Wynn’s attorney, Greg Johnson, said Wynn drove the other men to Indio that night so that they could supposedly meet up with Machado’s ex-girlfriend. The true purpose of the drive was concealed from him, his attorney said.
Once in Regency Park, Machado, otherwise known by his gang moniker “Slugger,” got out of the car and shot Hernandez, Johnson alleged. Wynn never exited the car and later “went out of his way to assist law enforcement,” his attorney said.
“He’s guilty of hanging out with some terrible people. Absolutely,” Johnson said. “But he is not guilty of the crimes that he’s being charged with.”
Machado pleaded guilty in February 2016 to voluntary manslaughter, as well as gang and firearm allegations, and was sentenced to 39 years in state prison.
Jaime pleaded guilty in 2014 to being an accessory and criminal street gang activity and was handed a two-year prison sentence in fall 2014.
Due to the teen’s age at the time of the shooting, court records regarding his arrest and any criminal charges are sealed.
–City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!