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Four Could Face Death Penalty in 2010 Triple Homicide

The U.S. Attorney filed charges against 19 people allegedly linked to the 2010 triple homicide in South San Francisco.

For nearly a year and a half after bullets flew and , there have been no public developments in the investigation into who killed Gonzalo Avalos, 19, Omar Cortez, 18, and Hector Flores, 20, on Dec 22, 2010 and left three others injured.

Now the authorities say they’ve got the perpetrators.

This morning, in 11 Bay Area locations and three cities who they say were members and associates of the 500 Block/C Street Gang. Together with an additional six suspects who were already in custody, the U.S. Attorney has charged 19 people with crimes relating to the murders in an indictment filed in federal court on April 24. 

The investigation involved local, state and federal law enforcement into a crime the indictment characterizes as a violent dispute between rival gang members.

“This was ground zero for the 500 Block/C Street violence,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. “The violence must stop.”

The indictment charges that Joseph Ortiz, 22 (“Little Vicious”), of South San Francisco, Victor Flores, 20 (“Little Creeper”), of Petaluma and Justin Whipple, 19 (“Teddy”), of San Bruno shot at seven people who they believed were rival gang members in South San Francisco on Dec. 22, hitting six and killing three. Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 21 (“BG”), of San Mateo served as their driver, according to the indictment.

All four have been charged with racketeering murder and face the death penalty if convicted.

Ortiz is also charged with four additional attempted murders and a firearms offense related to a Dec. 18, 2010 shooting in Daly City.

Of the remaining defendants, 12 were charged with racketeering conspiracy in relation to the murders, facing life in prison, and three are charged with being accessories after the fact.

Clark Settles, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge in San Francisco, said the arrests and charges send an important message to gang members.

“Be looking over your shoulder because there’s a good chance we’re coming for your next,” he said.

The arrests will “have a significant impact on the gang,” said South San Francisco Police Chief Michael Massoni. “The people responsible for the murder are in custody.”

“I think there’s going to be a sense of relief in the community,” said Mayor Richard Garbarino. “Today’s news sends a huge message out there that the bad guys aren’t always going to get away with stuff, and if you continue, you’ll get caught.”

Garbarino, who stood behind the podium with the rest of the city council alongside South San Francisco and Daly City police and representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office and federal law enforcement officials at a large press conference called to announce the arrests and charges Thursday afternoon, said he didn’t know Homeland Security Investigations or the U.S. Attorney’s office was involved with the case until this morning. But the charges should buttress the community’s faith in the police department and elected officials, he said.

after being fired at by an assault rifle while trying to arrest one of the suspects in Petaluma, but their injuries aren’t life-threatening, Haag said. The White Pages list Victor and Ana Flores as the tenants of the home where the assault took place.

“This underscores how daring this gang is,” Haag said.

The mother and brother of victim Gonzalo Avalos say they’re happy the legal process is moving forward.

“It brought her back to the day when my brother was killed,” Ramon Olmos, 31, Avalos’ brother, said of his mother, Carmen Ruiz. “But now I think the true test is forgiving [the suspects]. God is a forgiving God, and we have to forgive them as well for what they did.”

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Tess May 04, 2012 at 05:19 AM
A great big THANK YOU to the law enforcement officers for sticking to this case and bring closure, if not justice, to this senseless crime. It’s good to know that even though SSF is a small town, we have the backing from the big shots to help us keep our community safe, or at least safer, than it would be without them. This is, however, so, so very sad. The boys arrested are South City kids too. I know the paper says Petaluma and San Bruno, but these boys lived in our town for a while and where part of our community as well. Why? Oh why would they shoot the people they know? You know what it’s like, you go to Orange Park for a Day at the Park or an All Souls Festival and you see the people in your community. No you don’t “know” them, but you see them around town, they may even work at Safeway or McDonald’s and you know their faces, they even smile at you because they “know” you too – how could you shoot them? I just don’t understand that gang thing and it makes my heart hurt to know that young men are dying because of it. If the only answer is the “law” to make the killing stop – well then, let it be. But I would much more want families to love each other enough to STOP the violence and teach your children to love their neighbor. Please South City young men – stop killing each other --- we the community, want the best for you. We do love you.
Drew Himmelstein (Editor) May 04, 2012 at 06:45 AM
That is such a needed sentiment today. Thanks, Tess.
Veronica June 06, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Tess why would you thank the SSFPD? They arrested many men thinking "Hey let's just blame them so we look better." I was once robbed in SSF. From the so called innocent victims (A.K.A the Cypress Park Gangsters). Did the police rush to my rescue? No. Did they investigate much? No. I had to ask them to review surveillance tapes from the gas stations! I'm so upset that everyone on every website with this story posted feels as though JUSTICE has been served. IT HAS NOT BEEN SERVED. NOT UNTIL ALL the CYPRESS PARK WANGSTERS GET ARRESTED.
gio650 July 09, 2012 at 10:42 AM
lets get something straight the people they have arrested are guilty everyone in south city knows it if you were from the city you would know how small it is and how much people love too talk, their own gang members are the ones cooperating with the police and they have an inside source from what i hear, those wangsters you like too point out that robbed you get over it the police isn't worried about minor shit unless they know who exactly did it.. justice hasn't been served until they are all behind bars its not justice for the people its justice for the family's that lost their sons that day would you rather the beef keep going on between the two gangs an let more people die, let community fall in the middle of all that? you need to get over the fact that you've been robbed there are thousands of people robbed everyday in the U.S do you know what the chances of finding the muggers are? and your little sarcasm doesn't help (innocent victims) you seriously want too crack jokes about people who have lost their lives regardless if they were gang members that's no right too take a life..

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