Suspected Planada gang member pleads no contest in vehicle shooting

12/04/2013 5:52 PM

12/04/2013 11:11 PM

A “high-ranking” Planada street-gang member with a lengthy criminal history pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony count of attempting to shoot at a vehicle.

Daniel M. Saldana, 27, cut a deal with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office in exchange for a shorter prison term, Deputy District Attorney Mathew Martinez confirmed.

Saldana was charged in connection with shooting at a vehicle that may have been connected to a rival gang member June 14. 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 Street and Latham Drive and fired multiple shots into the unoccupied parked vehicle. Prosecutors amended the charges against Saldana following a preliminary hearing in August.

Saldana will serve one year and four months in prison and admitted the violent felony strike. Prior to accepting a plea deal, Saldana was facing up to 32 months in prison.

The offense is Saldana’s second strike, according to Merced Superior Court records.

“Getting that second strike was the most important part of the deal as far we’re concerned, and he’s got a prison commitment,” Martinez said following Wednesday’s hearing before Judge Ronald W. Hansen.

Martinez said if Saldana receives a third strike, he would automatically be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

A phone call to Saldana’s attorney David Capron was not immediately returned Wednesday.

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.

Saldana remains in custody without bail at the Merced County jail. He will be formally sentenced Feb. 14.

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