A documented gang member who opened fire on seven people outside a San Jacinto home, killing one, was convicted of murder and six counts of attempted murder Thursday, including a gang allegation that could have him facing the death penalty later this month.
Salvador Venegas, 36, was found guilty Thursday afternoon in the Feb. 5, 2014, killing of Runar Claus, 37, of Hemet, who was shot in the driveway of a residence where the victim was talking with a group of friends.
Along with the murder and attempted murder counts, jurors convicted Venegas of a special circumstance allegation of committing the murder to benefit a criminal street gang, triggering a second phase of the trial in which the panel will weigh whether he will face death or life imprisonment without parole. The “penalty phase” of the trial is slated to begin Nov. 26.
Prosecutors allege that Venegas and an unidentified second person approached the group, asked “Where you from?” then began firing on the group before anyone could answer. Claus was struck in the abdomen and taken to Hemet Valley Hospital, where he later died.
Venegas was arrested in Hemet about three weeks after the killing following a short pursuit of a vehicle in which he was a passenger.
Investigators said Venegas was placed at the shooting scene through data recovered from a GPS ankle monitor, which he was required to wear as part of a bail agreement stemming from a gun possession case.
The criminal complaint alleges that Venegas was previously convicted in 2000 of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years and four months in prison in a case out of Los Angeles County. Details on that case were not available through Riverside County court records.
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