A brutal shooting was committed by a street gang to strike fear into the community.
That's how a prosecutor characterized the May killing of 17-year-old Golden Valley High student DeAngelo Smith, during the first day of trial for defendant Juan Manuel Mendez.
Mendez is charged with murder in the death of Smith, who was shot seven times and left dying on a sidewalk at the Sunnyside Apartments in South Merced on May 14. Mendez allegedly drove a getaway car carrying three unknown assailants, who haven't been arrested.
Deputy District Attorney David Sandhaus said during his opening statement it "really didn't matter" to the suspects who they killed, saying the killing was done to "enhance the gang's reputation."
Deputy Public Defender Sean Howard, the defendant's attorney, said he'll reserve his opening statement until later during the trial.
Sandhaus revealed during his opening statement that a witness recognized Mendez after seeing him drive up to the apartment with the shooters in a GMC Yukon SUV with tinted windows. The witness also reported hearing gunshots, and watching Mendez and the others get back into the Yukon and drive away. The witness later picked Mendez out of a photo lineup.
Three of the four bullets pulled from Smith's body also matched a gun Merced police found hidden under the defendant's bedroom mattress at his Stratford Court home.
A second victim, a 16-year-old boy, was injured, and Mendez also faces an attempted murder charge as a result.
Mendez allegedly drove the assailants away from the shooting and later hid the guns under his mattress. Mendez claimed he didn't know the three shooters, but still drove them to the apartment complex because they'd called him and asked to be taken there. Mendez claimed he hid the weapons at the request of the other suspects.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.