Two men who confronted a pair of graffiti vandals in unincorporated Anaheim were shot, one fatally, by one of the gang members, whose alleged tagging accomplice is also charged with murder and attempted murder, a prosecutor told jurors, who also heard Tuesday from defense attorneys who said their clients are innocent.
David Steven Ortega, 36, of Chino, is accused of being the gunman who killed 51-year-old David Bruce Douglas and also shot John Anderson, then 39, on July 19, 2015, at Poona Drive and Lullaby Lane.
Co-defendant Edgar Ramirez, 24, of Anaheim, allegedly ran to get help from fellow gang members around the corner before shots rang out, according to Deputy District Attorney Chris Alex.
Ortega is charged with murder, with a special circumstances allegation that the killing was committed for the benefit of a gang, and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a gun, attempted premeditated murder, gang activity and a gang member’s vicarious discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury.
Ramirez is charged with murder and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancements for gang activity and a gang member’s vicarious discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury.
Douglas and Anderson, who lived nearby in the neighborhood, were chatting in Douglas’ driveway about 9:45 p.m. after returning from a camping trip when they saw two men spray-painting gang graffiti on property on the block, Alex said.
“These two victims tried to stop gang graffiti in their neighborhood and they paid dearly, one with his life and another nearly so,” Alex said in his opening statement.
When the two, along with another neighbor, asked the vandals what they were doing, the two men walked away, Alex said. Douglas and Anderson followed them, with Douglas going back to get his SUV at some point, Alex said.
One of the men “ducked in a bush” and emerged with a bandana masking his face, the prosecutor said. Anderson got into a loud argument with the man while the other man quickly left the scene, Alex said.
The masked suspect told Anderson to mind his own business and said, “I own this neighborhood,” Alex said.
Douglas rolled up in the SUV and Anderson jumped in as the masked suspect approaching the vehicle with a gun, Alex said. Another man blocked the path of the SUV while Ortega opened fire, he said, adding that a third man was at the scene who may have also opened fire.
Anderson was shot three times, including in the head, Alex said, and Douglas sustained a gunshot wound through the throat.
Investigators linked Ortega and Ramirez to the shooting through the freshly painted graffiti, which Alex said included their gang nicknames: Termite and Bounce, along with surveillance video from residences in the area, a tattoo on Ortega’s arm, witness observations of men running to and from the crime scene and phone records.
Investigators suspect Ramirez ran to a gathering around the corner and two other men returned to the conflict, where Ortega allegedly opened fire on the victims, Alex said.
Ortega’s attorney, Ed Welbourn, told jurors, “When you hear all the evidence, you’re going to come to the conclusion he’s not guilty.”
Anderson “is really the only eyewitness here,” the defense attorney said, adding that the victim could not identify any suspects in photo lineups.
“He never sees their faces and that’s important,” Welbourn said of the victim’s recollection of the assailants.
Prosecutors “have no evidence that will link Mr. Ortega to this case other than cell phones,” Welbourn said. “There’s no forensic evidence linking my client (to the shootings).”
A cell phone investigators used to link Ortega to the shootings “wasn’t even in his name,” Welbourn said.
Ortega had been working at a Dave & Busters restaurant in Hollywood for about seven years at the time of the shootings, Welbourn said.
“You’re going to see the government’s case is built entirely on speculation,” he said.
Ramirez’s attorney, Jacob DeGrave, said his client “wasn’t even there. He is innocent.”
DeGrave added, “There’s going to be no evidence Mr. Ramirez said anything (to the other men at the crime scene) or knew this was going to happen.”
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