Three men were convicted Tuesday of the gang-related killing of a former Garfield High School football player, who was not the intended target, in East Los Angeles nearly five years ago.
A downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated about two days before finding Jonathan Joseph Gonzalez, 30, Roque Solis, 32, and Anthony Aaron Gabriel, 27, all of Los Angeles, guilty of first-degree murder for the May 25, 2013, death of Gabriel Soto.
Jurors also convicted the three men of one count of attempted murder involving the intended victim, who was struck in the leg, and four counts of assault with a firearm, along with finding true allegations that Gonzalez and Solis personally and intentionally discharged a firearm during the commission of the murder and attempted murder and that the crimes were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Gonzalez also was convicted of one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Deputy District Attorney Hilary Williams told jurors that “Anthony Gabriel was the driver” who dropped Gonzalez and Solis off at the scene “to do the shooting.”
The attempted murder victim who was shot in the leg had testified at a hearing involving a gang member charged in an earlier case, the prosecutor told City News Service.
Defense attorneys countered that without forensic evidence or eyewitnesses, their clients could not be proven guilty of murder.
Soto — who was a month shy of his 22nd birthday — was gunned down while attending a party with some former teammates inside an open garage in the 600 block of South McDonnell Avenue.
He had returned to California to visit family while on a break from Lincoln University in Missouri, which he was attending on a football scholarship.
A redshirt player on Lincoln University’s football roster the previous season, Soto was going to be a defensive back for the upcoming season and was studying engineering, according to the university.
Gonzalez, Solis and Gabriel, who were arrested in December 2015, are facing multiple life prison terms, according to Williams. They are due back before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus on March 26 for sentencing.
–City News Service