Neighbor testifies in Espinoza murder trial (Jamiel Shaw Jr.)
By Alex Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
May 6, 2012 | 3:38 a.m. PST
LOS ANGELES — On Thursday, the murder trial of Pedro Espinoza continued, marking the third day of testimony. Juan Torres was the last witness and under the direct examination of Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski when trial recessed on Tuesday. Torres resumed the stand on Wednesday morning testifying about his relationship with both the defendant Espinoza, and the victim Jamiel Shaw, who was shot and killed on the 2100 block of 5th Avenue, the same street that Torres lived on.
Juan Torres the neighbor
Torres actually lived one residence north of Shaw and had been friends with him for several years since they were kids according to Torres. But he was also friends with Espinoza, testifying that he met him at Los Angeles High School in 2004. The confrontation between Shaw and Espinoza occurred immediately after Espinoza was leaving Torres’ residence according to prosecutors.
Espinoza was given a ride by Yisenia Sanchez to Torres’ home to get money. Espinoza was just released from the Los Angeles County jail the day before after serving jail time for brandishing a hand gun during a verbal confrontation in Culver City on November 18, 2007.
When Espinoza arrived at the Torres residence, his father informed him that his son was not home. Later that day, the son was given the message that his friend Espinoza stopped by, and by then, police, paramedics and investigators were on 5th Ave tending to a homicide crime scene. Torres testified that he eventually spoke to the police and informed them that his friend “Pedro” had came to his home around the same time that the shooting occurred but that he was not home.
In an effort to gather information about “Pedro,” Torres volunteered in assisting the LAPD on March 8 by trying to get Espinoza to admit to the shooting of Shaw. Torres, with a recording device set up in his car, met Espinoza at a market on Alcase and Adams. The two had a conversation, but Espinoza never admitted to the shooting but according to Torres, Espinoza said, “Blood Killa, I’ll wipe out all Bloods,” when he told him that Shaw was shot on his street. The prosecution never played any recordings of this conversation between Torres and Espinoza and according to LAPD Det. Mark Holguin, there are no recordings of the conversations between the two. Shortly after their meeting, LAPD officers moved in and took Espinoza into custody.
Torres also told the jury that in November of 2007, Espinoza came to his house with a gun.
Samuel Duran (Witness #9)
On November 18, 2007, Samuel Duran, was enjoying leisure time at Syd Kronenthal Park commonly known as McManus Park. He was confronted by three Hispanic males including Espinoza. According to Duran, Espinoza asked him “Where are you from,” which is a common gang query and the same exact question asked to Shaw. Duran said that he ignored Espinoza and continued with his work out and that Espinoza went to another part of the park and did his own workout.
Espinoza and his group most likely believed that Duran was a rival gang member from Varrio Culver City (CxC), but when asked during cross examination by defense attorney Csaba Palfi, Duran denied any gang affiliation. Duran testified that Espinoza approached him again and asked, “Do you have a problem?”
According to Duran, Espinoza approached him again and said, “I got this for you,” referring a gun tucked in his waist. Duran testified that Espinoza was trying to brandish a weapon to shoot him but the gun was never pulled out. Duran testified that he was scared and believed that Espinoza was going to kill him if he was able to draw his gun. Duran also stated that another member of the group suggested that they should fight, but he was able to walk away unharmed.
During Duran’s testimony he kept a smile and appeared very happy to be testifying against Espinoza. Duran is of small stature in his 20s and he was wearing a dark suit. Under direct examination he gave extensive answers beyond the scope of the questions asked and defense attorney Palfi objected to only one of his answers. Duran testified that Espinoza took his shirt off in the basketball court area for the purpose of exposing an 18th Street gang tattoo on his back. When asked about his knowledge of gang hand signs, he replied that the signs show power and respect and that the gangs commit murder related to the Mexican Mafia.
After Duran left, he called the police and within a few minutes, Espinoza was taken into custody along with his two other friends. Espinoza attempted to ditch the gun but Officer Jeff Zerbie from the Culver City Police Department noticed Espinoza threw the gun. The three were arrested and the gun was booked into evidence.
At the police Station
When the three arrived at the police station, Officer Ryan Thompson was assigned to interview the three arrested, and questioned them separately about the incident with Duran. James Wooten and Javier Espinoza (cousin to Pedro Espinoza) were the other two arrested. The interviews were recorded and when Officer Thompson interviewed Espinoza the second time, he played the tape recorded interview of one of the other two arrestees, and he became angry according to Thompson.
Officer Thompson testified that Espinoza flipped the table in the interview room and said, “Fuck this shit, let’s go,” then held his fists up in a fighting stance. He walked forward, and Officer Thompson struck him once in the face, he fell down and was eventually handcuffed.
None of the police interviews were played in court and under cross examination, Officer Thompson testified that Espinoza became angry because he heard a recording of his cousin Javier say something that would be considered “snitching.”
On day three of the trial, Officer Jeff Zerbie (#10) of the CCPD, Det. Eric Shimabukuro (#11), and Det. Marc Holguin (#13) and LAPD Officer Javier Hernandez of the LAPD also testified.
Alex Alonso is an author, film maker, founder of Streetgangs.com, and a criminal trial consultant. He is a contributing author in the book Black Los Angeles: American Dreams Racial Realities (New York University Press). He can be reached via email, toll free at 800-249-1324 or on Twitter.
Tags: 18th street, alex alonso, bloods, Crips, Culver City Police Department, gang related, gang shooting, gangs, illegal alien, immigration, jamiel shaw, Jamiel Shaw Jr., Juan Carlos Torres, Juan Torres, lapd, Los Angeles, mexico, murder, pedro espinoza, street gangs, William Bratton