Gang testimony heard in Los Banos homicide trial

02/19/2014 8:05 PM

02/19/2014 10:36 PM

In a video recording played Wednesday for a Merced County jury, homicide defendant Albert Hernandez appears to tell his mother he killed a teenager in Los Banos last year.

“Did you do it?” Hernandez’s mother asks in the recording. “Look at me and tell the truth.” The woman’s name could not be confirmed Wednesday. A Los Banos police officer told jurors the woman shown in the recording is the defendant’s mother.

In the recording, Hernandez appears to confirm killing Shane T. Moore.

“Why would you do something like that?” his mother replies. The video ended immediately after the woman’s question.

The images were taped March 22 at the Los Banos Police Department after Hernandez was arrested and questioned in connection with Moore’s death. Thomas Min, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, played a short clip of the exchange between Hernandez and his mother Wednesday afternoon in Merced Superior Court before Judge Ronald W. Hansen.

Hernandez, now 18, has pleaded not guilty to murder and gang charges. He was 17 at the time of the incident but was charged as an adult.

Moore, 18, died March 4 at a home in the 800 block of La Mesa Lane in Los Banos. Police have said Hernandez is a known gang member who targeted suspected rivals and fired at least 10 rounds into a group of people.

Moore, however, was not a gang member and was killed inadvertently. Three other people were also wounded in the attack, authorities said.

Los Banos police Detective Eduardo Solis testified Wednesday as a street-gang expert over the objections of Hernandez’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Chris Loethen. The attorney challenged the detective’s credentials as a gang expert but was overruled by the judge.

Solis has testified as a street-gang expert in previous court hearings, authorities confirmed.

On the witness stand, Solis, a seven-year police veteran, estimated there are about 250 known gang members in Los Banos, and about 50 to 70 of them are members of subsets of the Sureño criminal street gang, including Hernandez.

Solis also read a letter to the jury that was written by Hernandez after the police interrogation. In the letter, Hernandez told Moore’s family he was “sorry” and he wished he could “go back in time.” The letter was also shown to the jury on an overhead projector.

“I hope I get to see my family one day,” Hernandez told Moore’s family at the end of the letter. “They mean everything to me.”

Testimony resumes this afternoon.

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