A gang member was convicted of murder and attempted murder Thursday for the shootings of two people who confronted a pair of graffiti vandals in an unincorporated area near Anaheim, but jurors failed to reach a verdict on charges against a second man.
David Steven Ortega, 36, of Chino, was convicted of first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang and attempted murder. Jurors, who deliberated for about two days, also found true sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a gun, a gang member’s vicarious discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury, attempted premeditated murder and gang activity.
Jurors, however, could not reach verdicts in the case against co-defendant Edgar Ramirez, who is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder, leading Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King to declare a mistrial. The jurors split 7-5 on the murder charge and 6-6 on the attempted murder count.
Ortega is scheduled to be sentenced June 14, when a discussion will also be held on whether Ramirez will be retried.
Ortega killed 51-year-old David Bruce Douglas and wounded John Anderson, then 39, on July 19, 2015, at Poona Drive and Lullaby Lane.
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.
Douglas and Anderson, who lived nearby, 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 at some point getting his SUV, Alex said.
One of the vandals “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.
The masked suspect told Anderson to mind his own business and said, “I own this neighborhood,” Alex said.
Douglas rolled up in his SUV and Anderson jumped in as the masked suspect produced a gun and approached the vehicle, Alex said. Another man blocked the path of the SUV while Ortega 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 opened fire on the victims, Alex said.
Ortega’s attorney, Ed Welbourn, insisted during the trial there was no firm evidence linking his client to the shooting, noting that a cell phone investigators used to place Ortega at the scene “wasn’t even in his name,” Welbourn said.
Ramirez’s attorney, Jacob DeGrave, said his client “wasn’t even there. He is innocent.”