A man described by authorities as a “high-ranking” Planada gang member with a violent criminal history appeared in court Wednesday on shooting charges.
Daniel M. Saldana has pleaded not guilty to felony charges in connection with shots fired at a vehicle on June 14 in Planada.
Saldana, 27, appeared briefly Wednesday in Merced Superior Court and requested a new public defender. Following a closed-door hearing, Judge Ronald W. Hansen granted the request and scheduled a hearing Friday to appoint the new lawyer.
He is also scheduled for a trial setting that same day; however, that hearing likely will be postponed.
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“It’s very unlikely he’ll get a trial date on Friday,” Mathew Martinez, deputy district attorney, said about Saldana. “His new attorney is going to need time to go through all the paperwork in the case.”
A phone call to the Merced County Public Defender’s Office was not returned.
Described in reports from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department as a “high-ranking” member of a Planada street gang, Saldana was arrested June19, four days after investigators said he fired at least six shots into an unoccupied red sedan.
Witnesses initially described a rolling shootout between someone in Saldana’s blue Honda and a someone in a red sedan, according to court documents.
However, witnesses later said Saldana got out of his vehicle somewhere around De La Guerra and Latham streets and fired multiple shots into the unoccupied parked vehicle. Prosecutors amended the charges against Saldana following a preliminary hearing in August, authorities said.
According to Merced Superior Court records, Saldana’s criminal history in the area dates to 2004 and includes convictions ranging from vehicle theft and evading police to gang charges, domestic violence and assault.
In 2010, he pleaded no contest to stabbing another man in Planada on Nov.15, 2009. The victim in the case told investigators he did not know why Saldana attacked him.
According to court records, the victim was approaching a home in the 400 block of De La Guerra Street when Saldana, who was waiting near the front door, stabbed the victim repeatedly. The victim, whose name was withheld by authorities for safety reasons because of street-gang connections, suffered numerous injuries but recovered, authorities said.
Saldana was sentenced to five years in state prison in the assault case, according to court records. It was not clear when Saldana was released from state prison. Efforts on Wednesday to obtain records from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were unsuccessful.
Six months before the stabbing, a Merced jury found Saldana not guilty of rape.
Saldana remains in custody without bail in the Merced County Jail.