Testifying in the trial of four reputed gang members accused in an Indio drive-by killing, including one defendant who allegedly removed a GPS ankle monitor the night of the shooting, a crime scene analyst said Tuesday the monitor can accurately track a person to within about 16 yards.
Prosecutors contend in court papers the monitor worn by defendant Cesar Monzon Jr. placed him within 40 yards of the shooting scene prior to the gunfire.
Monzon, 29, Angel Lopez, 30, Andrew Marquie Malanche, 27, and Jose Antonio Armendariz, 35, are charged with murder and gang allegations stemming from the Aug. 7, 2016, shooting death of Adrian Valdez, 22, of Indio. Valdez was found wounded at 12:43 a.m. in front of a home in the 82600 block of Mountain View Avenue. He died about four hours later at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
Prosecutors contend the defendants carried out the shooting as an act of retribution for the death of a fellow gang member.
Detectives were tipped off to Monzon’s alleged involvement after a parole officer told them that Monzon had cut off his GPS ankle monitor on the night of the shooting, according to a court declaration. The parole officer told police that the ankle bracelet was removed shortly after 12:50 a.m.
Testifying on behalf of the prosecution, Ashley Fuller, director of judicial affairs and crime scene analysis for Texas-based GPS monitoring firm Satellite Tracking of People, said the “track points” of such monitors are accurate within a margin of about 15 meters, or 16 yards, but do not generally pinpoint an exact location of the person wearing it.
“It likely would not show the identical location,” Fuller said. “I have tested these devices for over 500 hours and one of the tests that I did personally was I sat on the couch with my device. I watched a movie and I did not move for a two-hour time period. I then viewed the (tracking) maps … and my track points were in a cluster.”
She said the GPS tracking map “is never meant to be determined as the exact location. The data itself, which makes up the map, is what is analyzed and what I can determine is an accurate representation of the device’s location.”
Monzon fled the country following the shooting and was arrested three weeks later after a fugitive task force located him in Mexicali, Mexico, where prosecutors said several of his relatives live.
In addition to Monzon’s GPS ankle monitor, surveillance footage from an Indio 7-Eleven and Mountain View Avenue show the occupants of a Chevrolet Caprice and a Toyota Sequoia congregating at the convenience store and then traveling to the shooting scene, according to police.
A security camera from a nearby home captured gunfire coming from both sides of the Toyota, while the Chevrolet sped eastbound down Mountain View Avenue, out of the camera’s view.
The alleged assailants apparently were met with return fire. Lopez and Malanche showed up at Indio’s JFK Memorial Hospital that day, according to police. Malanche was hospitalized with a single gunshot wound while Lopez was treated for a graze wound.
Hospital security told police that upon arrival, Lopez was seen taking a backpack from the Caprice and hiding it near the north side of the emergency room. Police recovered the backpack, which contained two handguns and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition, according to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant.
Lopez told police that he was inside the Caprice during the shooting but did not admit to shooting Valdez, the declaration states.
Malanche told detectives that he was driving by the Mountain View Avenue home with Lopez when they were fired upon. Malanche said he was “scared” and that he and Lopez fired several shots at their attackers in retaliation, according to the declaration.
Armendariz, who police say was driving the Toyota, was arrested after police tracked down the SUV’s registered owner, who told police that Armendariz usually drove the vehicle. Police found Armendariz at the registered owner’s home on Aug. 8 and arrested her on an outstanding warrant alleging assault with a deadly weapon.
Police said Armendariz refused to speak with detectives about the shooting, but a warrant was served the following day to search the Toyota. Three bullet holes were seen on the outside of the SUV and ammunition was allegedly found inside.
The four defendants are facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
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