Fellow gang members charged in man’s death under rare legal principle

Harry Harris (Oakland Tribune) | July 17, 2011

OAKLAND — It started with taunts between rival gang members and quickly escalated into a gunbattle that police said left one of the instigators dead.

But in an infrequently used legal principle, the rival gang members whose return fire killed Christian Daniel Garcia, 18, in the van he was in are not being prosecuted for his death.

Instead, under the “provocative act” standard, one of Garcia’s fellow gang members with him in the van on June 17 is being prosecuted for his killing and another for being an accessory, authorities said. None of the rival gang members were charged with his death because they acted in self-defense, senior deputy district attorney Jeff Stark said Friday.

Besides murder, Albert Ruiz, 18, of Oakland, is charged with attempted murder and being involved in criminal street gang activity. Eric Salazar, 23, of Oakland, is charged with being an accessory to a felony and being involved in criminal street gang activity. Ruiz is being held without bail and Salazar in lieu of $130,000 bail pending their entering of pleas July 26.

Stark said he applied the provocative act principle because the actions of Garcia and the other two “would foreseeably provoke a violent response” — in this case the violent response resulted in Garcia’s death.

The investigation was led by Oakland police Officer Angelica Mendoza. Before coming to the homicide unit more than a year ago, she gained a reputation in law enforcement circles as one of the best and most knowledgeable gang investigators in the state. In this case, she not only already knew members of both gangs involved in the shooting but had sent Salazar to prison five years ago in a robbery case that was reduced to grand theft.

Read more at: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_18493332?nclick_check=1

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