Saturday, October 18, 2003

This week, in DEPARTMENT 103 in the CCB, GILBERT "LUCKY" SALDANA was found guilty on one charge of murder and one charge of attempted murder. The prosecutor was DAVID GELFOUND from the HARD CORE GANG unit while the defense counsel was MICHAEL RUSSO, a public defense lawyer. The short version of the story is that SALDANA rolled up on a car that contained JONATHAN PADRON and JOSE NOYOLA, both alleged members of CYPRESS. Words were exchanged and either PADRON or NOYOLA said "Fuck the AVENUES" to SALDANA. At which point, SALDANA opened fire, killing PADRON and wounding NOYOLA.

We’ll have more details on this case in later postings. But there’s a back story here that interested parties should find illuminating and will hopefully deepen your understanding of the workings of the AVENUES and street gangs in general.

While this case will finally put LUCKY SALDANA behind bars, he’s been on In The Hat’s radar screen for a very long time. From what we know, LUCKY wasn’t on any kind of career path. For instance, he hadn’t yet graduated to collecting taxes or working on a crew. Apparently, he was too much of a banger and wasn’t trusted to run things in any kind of organized way. At least this is what we hear. Anyone with contrary info on this is invited to contact us.

Way back in 1999, which seems like the JURASSIC AGE in the gang world, LUCKY was running with three other AVENUES homies – (deleted), MERCED "SHADOW" CAMBERO and JOSE "CLEVER" DELACRUZ. On the night of APRIL 18th of that year, the four were riding around in a stolen van throwing up tags, drinking and basically keeping an eye out for interlopers from other gangs. They even went into a building claimed by FROGTOWN and put up some tags but they couldn’t draw out any enemies. The four basically threw a gang fight but nobody came.

Then at around 3:30 AM, they came across KENNY WILSON. WILSON was a 38-year-old male black from ONTARIO, CA who was visiting friends at 338 NORTH AVENUE 52. WILSON was parking his friend’s CADILLAC when the van with LUCKY and company turned the corner. LUCKY reportedly said to the others, "You guys want to kill a nigger?" Apparently they did.

The four AVENUES gangsters dismounted, ran along the off side of the parked cars on the street and when they got level to WILSON, they opened up. They were armed with a 12 gauge, a 9 mm, a .357 and another handgun which is believed to be a .380. They basically turned the car WILSON was driving into a sieve. WILSON took one round to the base of his skull and died within minutes.

The IO on the WILSON murder was DETECTIVE ANDY TEAGUE from NORTHEAST. For a year the case went nowhere.

A month after the WILSON killing, (deleted) and SHADOW CAMBERO were together again. This time they were on the corner of FIGUEROA and AVENUE 43. This location was a mere stroll from the scene of WILSON’S homicide. It was 1:00 AM and (deleted) was throwing up a big tag on a wall across the street from the JACK IN THE BOX. CAMBERO was across the street with a police scanner to his ear and a his other hand on a gun in his pocket. CAMBERO was the tailgunner just in case another gang objected to the AVENUES tag.

As (deleted) was tagging the wall, a car with four people (two men, two females) pulled up to the JACK IN THE BOX. One of the women was an off-duty LAPD officer named JEANETTE GARCIA. GARCIA was in the front passenger seat. The four in the car couldn’t help but stare at (deleted) tagging the wall. When (deleted) saw that he was being observed, he walked over to the car and challenged them. He repeated "You want to get blasted?" several times.

OFFICER GARCIA instructed the driver to get out of there. She put her service pistol on her lap. Her intention was to leave the area and phone in for assistance. As her car turned onto FIGUEROA, CAMBERO who was across the street pulled his handgun and began firing at the car. In fact, he chased after the car, shooting as he ran, as the driver was pulling away. OFFICER GARCIA pushed herself out of the passenger window and returned fire. She fired six rounds without effect. She said that the shooter, "Seemed really startled that somebody was shooting back." No doubt. CAMBERO broke off the attack and ran.

Nobody was hit that night. It was a FRIDAY.

The next MONDAY morning, DETECTIVE RICK ORTIZ was given a copy of the report of that incident. An accurate description of (deleted) was in that report and it took ORTIZ about ten seconds to recognize that description as (deleted). ORTIZ had known (deleted) since (deleted) was a YG in AVENUES.

To make a long story short, ORTIZ took (deleted) into custody and questioned him about the JACK IN THE BOX shooting. (Deleted) copped to being there but said that CAMBERO had done the shooting. Then he changed his mind and said that he was there but refused to implicate CAMBERO as the shooter. Regardless, (deleted) was charged with 4 counts of attempted murder and was eventually convicted. He was sentenced to 27 years.

A year after (deleted) had been sent away for the four attempt counts, he contacted authorities and volunteered that he had some information on a murder. The victim was a black guy on NORTH AVENUE 52. NORTHEAST DETECTIVES JOHN BERDIN and ANDY TEAGUE went to interview (deleted) and the tale of WILSON’s killing rolled out of (deleted) as described above.

BERDIN and TEAGUE informed (deleted) that none of his information would remove even one day from his sentence. It was way past the 120 day window of opportunity after sentencing that (deleted) could have used to do himself some good. (Deleted) apparently didn’t care. He told his story and signed his name to the statement.

Based on that information, SALDANA and CLEVER were taken into custody. They were both told that (deleted) had rolled on them. SALDANA denied everything. CLEVER, who was not so clever after all, said that yeah, he was there the night of WILSON’S murder and yeah, he was shooting at the car, but no he was not aiming at WILSON. He was just shooting at the car.

In the world of law, just admitting that he shot at the car was all that CLEVER had to say to make him eligible for a murder charge. Just to rub it in, CLEVER was also charged with a hate crime. On FEBRUARY 25, 2002, almost three years after WILSON’s killing, one of his killers was convicted of the murder. CLEVER was sentenced to 45 to life.

LUCKY SALDANA on the other hand, was let go early on. There was no other corroborating evidence to tie SALDANA to the WILSON murder. And the word of one participant against another isn't enough to proceed with a prosecution. There needs to be additional evidence. In CLEVER's case, the additional corroborating evidence was his own statement.

CAMBERO was never found. Rumor is that he’s living in MEXICO and occasionally comes back to AVENUES.

Of the four people who killed WILSON, only CLEVER is serving time for the crime. (deleted) is in prison on the GARCIA et al shooting. CAMBERO is still at large. And this week SALDANA was convicted on the PADRON murder. SALDANA is scheduled for sentencing on NOVEMBER 18.

There’s an epilogue to this that may evolve into yet another case involving the four AVENUES gangsters who killed KENNY WILSON. The LA office of the FBI and the US ATTORNEY are currently conducting an investigation of the WILSON homicide. The goal is to prosecute the four on FEDERAL HATE CRIME charges. More details on that as they become available. But now, as the saying goes, you know the rest of the SALDANA story.