A gang member who laughed about shooting a phlebotomy student in Santa Ana as the 20-year-old victim begged in vain for his life was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer tacked on another 25 years to life in prison for Ricardo Ray Alcala, who was convicted in April of gunning down Edgar Sura.
Sura denied any gang affiliation and begged for his life, according to Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen.
The victim was shot in the back as he ran away, and he kept running “for quite some distance” until he finally collapsed in front of a home and bled to death, the prosecutor said.
Co-defendants Isaac Angel Martinez, 27, and Jeamy Beatriz Melendez, 25, accepted plea deals Friday and were sentenced to 26- and six-year prison terms, respectively, Petersen said.
The judge noted that Alcala, 26, returned to the scene of the shooting, where a makeshift memorial was established in Sura’s honor.
“It’s despicable,” Paer said, adding the defendant was a “frequent flyer” in the criminal justice system.
“This is an awful case,” the judge said. “You talk about a vulnerable victim. This is the epitome of a vulnerable victim. … He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Alcala “deserves every day” of his life sentence, Paer said. “He’s earned it.”
Sura’s mother and father tearfully told the judge how their son’s death affected them.
Maria Sura said she misses how her son would come home from work, go to her bedroom, hug her and “lay by my side and would always ask for my blessing.” Each night, she imagines him coming home to repeat the ritual, “but I know that’s impossible.”
Francisco Sura said Sundays are no longer a day for playing soccer with his son in the park. “Now Sundays are in the cemetery with my son,” he said.
“They have destroyed my family,” Sura said of his son’s killers.
The victim’s sister, Gabriela, said her brother was “very kind, very overprotective” and encouraged her to avoid hating anyone.
“But I’m not going to keep that promise anymore,” she said. “I view (the defendants) as pure scum… I don’t understand why they took an innocent life.”
She said her brother liked to walk home from work because he could donate cash to homeless people along the way, and she recalled how he would often stop to buy groceries for the family.
Petersen told City News Service that the case would have likely gone unsolved if not for some of the tactics Orange County law enforcement has come under fire for utilizing in the prosecution of Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history.
An informant helped police find the murder weapon and an undercover officer got incriminating statements from the defendant while they were together in a holding cell, according to the prosecutor.
“When they can utilize these legal tools, we get to solve cases,” Petersen said.
Alcala and his gang were prowling a Santa Ana neighborhood for rivals on Oct. 19, 2012, when they spotted Sura riding his bicycle.
Melendez, who was a “hood rat” for Alcala’s gang and was in a romantic relationship with him, testified for the prosecution, Petersen said.
Sura was pedaling through the neighborhood shortly after midnight when he was confronted in a “gang hit-up,” which involves asking the target which gang they belong to, Petersen said.
Sura, who was studying to become a phlebotomist, was not involved in any gang, the prosecutor said.
— City News Service