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Jury finds 26-year-old man guilty of second degree murder

A 26-year-old man accused of committing a brazen gang-related homicide in 2004 was found guilty of second degree murder charges on Wednesday.

It took a jury of six men and six women about two hours to reach their verdict in the trial of Armando Chacon. Jurors unanimously agreed that Chacon murdered 24-year-old Ventura Martinez, following an argument between the rival gang members outside a South Merced home.

In addition to the second degree murder charge, Chacon was also found guilty of two enhancements for using a firearm to kill Martinez.

The guilty verdict comes nearly three years after Chacon’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury in July 2006. He now faces 40 years to life in prison.

Chacon was initially charged with first degree murder. In order to obtain a first degree murder conviction, prosecutors would have to prove that the crime was deliberate and premeditated.

Slocum said the conflict that led up to the shooting happened quickly. "When you have gang on gang violence such as this, there are no winners. One man’s dead and another man is going to spend a significant amount of time in prison," Slocum said. "The gang culture never leads to anything positive."

Chacon’s attorney Tom Pfeiff argued that his client committed the shooting in self defense. "He feels that he did what he had to do to protect himself," Pfeiff said. "Obviously the jury disagreed."

The shooting was reported shortly after 2 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2004, in front of a home on San Clemente Drive. Merced police investigators said they believe Chacon was accompanied by a woman, and the pair had gone to the home to pick up her two children.

After the argument began, police said Chacon shot Martinez once with a .357 Magnum. He then got out of his car, jumped on the hood and fired three more times. Two more bullets hit Martinez, and he died at the scene.

Six days after the shooting, Chacon was found at an apartment in Santa Clara County. Chacon had been on parole from the California Youth Authority at the time of the killing.

He's scheduled to be sentenced June 17.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com..

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