Gang member: Attack that killed baby was a surprise

C.J. Lin (Daily News) | October 19, 2010

An alleged accomplice in the 2009 killing of a 4-month-old baby in Van Nuys testified Tuesday that he did not know his fellow gang member – carrying a 2-foot-long, sawed-off shotgun – was planning to shoot at a rival gang that night.

Alfonzo Landa, 18, a member of the Blythe Street gang, is on trial for allegedly being the backup man in a shooting that left the baby dead, a woman partially blinded and a man wounded in the head. He faces a possible eight life terms in prison.

Landa testified that he never saw the two-foot, sawed-off shotgun with a modified pistol grip despite sitting just inches away from the alleged shooter, Ricardo Hernandez, during a 10-minute car ride prior to the shooting.

Prosecutor Daniel Akemon said the shooting would never have happened if Landa hadn’t gone with Hernandez to protect him in a rival gang’s turf, after a night of drinking.

“It takes two to tango,” Akemon said in his closing arguments. “They’re equally guilty. This shooting does not happen without Landa. Ricardo Hernandez does not go into that neighborhood without a shotgun and without Landa.”

Landa testified that he only saw the gun when Hernandez stepped out of the car and believed that they were heading to Hernandez’s home even though they were walking through rival gang territory around midnight Sept. 27, 2009.

“(I) just thought he was going to stash it, take it home,” Landa testified.

Landa testified that he had never met Hernandez until earlier that night while drinking vodka and beer in a driveway in Panorama City, but upon cross-examination, revealed that the pair had talked about being attacked by Barrios Van Nuys, a rival gang, a few months before the shooting.

In an interrogation room video, Landa described the shotgun to detectives as a Mossberg brand with a pistol grip – evidence that he was familiar with the gun and had spoken to Hernandez, according to Akemon.

The two had planned the shooting in retaliation for Hernandez getting shot in the leg and the killing of a fellow gang member, according to Akemon.

Even after he became aware of the shotgun, Landa walked two blocks with Hernandez to the scene of the shooting because gang culture dictates that gang members need to protect each other, especially in rival territory, according to testimony.

Landa maintained that he was walking Hernandez home and had no knowledge that a shooting was about to occur in the 14300 block of Kittridge Street.

Minutes later, he watched Hernandez approach a group of people and ask “Where you from?” – a question meant to determine gang ties. Shots were fired after Erik Ramirez, a rival, answered that he was from Van Nuys, according to investigators.

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