A reputed Mongols motorcycle gang member accused in the shooting death of a Pomona SWAT officer was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on a capital murder charge.
David Martinez, 37, is also facing a special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer, making him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, should the District Attorney’s Office pursue capital punishment.
At a preliminary hearing that began Wednesday and concluded late Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M. L. Villar said she was convinced there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the murder charge with related gang and gun allegations.
Martinez is accused of firing a shotgun at 45-year-old Officer Shaun Diamond as the lawman was helping to serve a warrant last Oct. 28 at the suspect’s home in San Gabriel.
Diamond was helping to open the outer door of the home as part of a multi-agency operation targeting the Mongols gang when an interior door was opened and a single shotgun blast rang out, striking him in the neck. He died the next day.
A Montebello police detective with 14 years on the force testified that Martinez, when brought out of the house at 138 N. San Marino Ave., told him “I shot a cop. I shot a cop. I was scared. I was scared. I shot a cop.”
Defense attorney Edward Esquela suggested during his cross-examination of a gang expert with the Montebello Police Department that Martinez was trying to defend his family and believed the SWAT officers who pounded on his door and entered the home were gang members.
Esquela did not present an affirmative defense but offered a “hypothetical” in asking the gang expert about whether a particular crime would be considered for the benefit of a gang, apparently hoping to see that allegation dropped.
His hypothetical shooter was asleep in a back bedroom when he wakes to pounding on a door and sees who he thinks is his father being shot.
“He believes in his mind and in his heart that he is protecting his family,” Esquela said.
A Pomona police officer who was in the house when Diamond was shot testified that Martinez said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I thought you were the Mongols.”
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Kim pointed out that Martinez’s parents both testified that they heard the police warnings and that the mother could clearly identify the men on her porch as police officers.
Esquela also suggested that what Martinez’s parents identified as an explosion, and the Pomona officer later clarified that he believed to be a shot, may not have come from inside the house.
There is “not one scintilla of evidence before this court that that explosion came from a shotgun … fired by Mr. David Martinez,” the defense attorney told the court.
Kim countered that the coroner identified Diamond’s wound as coming from a shotgun, adding that there was “no evidence that a firearm or any explosive device was used” to breach the door.
“The fact that the defendant admitted shooting a police officer and was found holding a shotgun” should be sufficient evidence, Kim said.
Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Martinez, who has been held without bail since his arrest and is due back in court Aug. 13 for arraignment.
Sheriff’s officials said Martinez has a criminal history that includes assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence.
A motorcycle, motorcycle jackets and T-shirts adorned with gang insignia were found in a back bedroom of the house, along with several other gang- related items, including a gang “constitution.”
An expert testified that the jacket included patches worn only by Mongols members and included patches as rewards from the gang, including one reading, “respect few, fear none.”
“In shooting a police officer, that gang member’s reputation is going to skyrocket,” Detective Craig Adams testified.
Diamond had 16 years of experience in law enforcement. He worked with the Los Angeles Police Department from 1995-2002, then with the Montebello Police Department from 2002-03. The married father of two joined the Pomona Police Department in 2006 and its SWAT team two years later.
— City News Service
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