MODESTO — A detective on Wednesday testified that three defendants accused of murder in a stabbing are members of a Modesto street gang. Previous testimony, however, indicated that witnesses didn't hear gang slogans or see the suspects flash gang signs during the January fatal attack on a teenager at Creekwood Park.
Taylor Koplen, 18, Jacob Segura, 19, and Juan Garcia, 16, are charged with murder in the death of 18-year-old Tylor Crippen. They also face charges of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery, along with enhancements of committing the crimes for the benefit of the Norteño street gang.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty and denied the enhancements, which could lengthen a prison sentence if they are convicted. Their preliminary hearing resumed Wednesday morning with testimony from Detective Robert Gumm, a Modesto police gang investigator.
The detective reviewed more than 20 incidents over the past five years involving the defendants in which they were contacted by police or other authorities. Gumm testified that Koplen, Segura and Garcia are members of the Norteño street gang, which controls Creekwood Park.
He said on the witness stand that he knows of many Norteño gang members who frequent the park, and that there were other alleged robberies and assaults committed by known Norteños in the few months before and after the attack on Crippen.
Testimony by Modesto police Detective Ra Pouv on Tuesday indicated that people who witnessed the attack on Crippen and an assault on another teenager minutes before the stabbing at the same park didn't hear gang slogans or see gang signs.
Gumm testified that some Creekwood Park neighborhood residents have said they will not go to the park because of the gang presence. But other law-abiding residents do go to the park, the detective said.
The preliminary hearing is expected to continue today in Stanislaus County Superior Court, with testimony about what Segura told investigators during questioning at the Modesto Police Department.
At the conclusion, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.