Alleged gang member faces more charges
by Henry Lee (San Francisco Chronicle)
September 14, 2009
An alleged member of the MS-13 gang is now facing federal murder and weapons charges in the Daly City slaying of a 21-year-old college student who was shot because his friends were wearing red – a color claimed by a rival gang – court records show.
Luis Herrera, 18, who was one of three suspects already facing state charges, was named in a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The complaint accused Herrera of murder in aid of racketeering and a gun-possession charge in the Feb. 19 slaying of Moises Frias Jr. near the Daly City BART Station.
Frias and three friends were listening to loud rap music as they drove toward a restaurant in a Buick Regal. About 7 p.m., the group was stopped at a light on John Daly Boulevard next to the BART Station when Danilo Velasquez, 28, and Jaime Balam, 20, jumped out of a stolen Honda Civic and sprayed the Buick with bullets from an assault rifle and a .380-caliber pistol, authorities said.
The men got back into the Honda, which was driven by Herrera, and sped onto Interstate 280, police said.
One of Frias’s companions was wearing a red sweater, and another a red-and-white San Francisco 49ers cap, when the car was riddled with bullets. Frias died before he could reach the hospital and two of the other three young men in the car were wounded.
Members of MS-13 – a subset of the Sureño gang – claim the color blue. The rival Norteños claim red. None of the victims had anything to do with gangs, investigators said.
Herrera, whose nickname is “Killer,” murdered Frias “for the purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13, an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity,” the federal complaint said.
If convicted of the federal murder charge or a charge of possession of a firearm in a murder, he could face the death penalty, although federal prosecutors have not said whether they would seek it. If they do not seek the death penalty on the murder charge, Herrera would face a mandatory minimum of life in prison upon conviction.
The suspects’ Honda, which had been stolen in San Francisco’s Mission District, was found by police in the Castro a day after the slaying.
Daly City police had few other leads until March 4, when a “very alert” San Francisco police officer stopped a car driven by Herrera and arrested him on suspicion of auto theft and possession of a loaded .380-caliber pistol, police said.
Ballistics tests revealed that the pistol had been used in the Daly City slaying, authorities said. Herrera later told a fellow inmate that he and his three passengers had planned to kill Norteños on the day of the car stop, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Special Agent Alicia MacDonald wrote in an affidavit filed in support of the federal complaint.
Velasquez was arrested in July in San Francisco.
Balam, the other alleged shooter, was deported to his native Mexico eight days after the shooting – before he was identified as a suspect – and is still being sought. Police said Balam, who had been deported once before, was picked up by federal immigration agents in San Francisco on Feb. 24.
Daly City police have noted that Frias’ shooting was strikingly similar to the June 2008 killing of a San Francisco father, Tony Bologna, and his two sons in the Excelsior neighborhood.
In that case, alleged MS-13 gang member Edwin Ramos, 22, opened fire after mistaking one of the sons for a member of the rival Norteños, police said. San Francisco prosecutors said Thursday said that would not seek the death penalty for Ramos.
Tags: BART Station, Daly City, Danilo Velasquez, Jaime Balam, Luis Herrara, Moises Frias Jr., MS-13, murder