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Gang member tells story

Jurors heard Tuesday about the death of Rogelio Reyes Fernandez from the perspective of the gang members in the car with him and from the police who investigated it. Today they'll hear from rival gang members involved in the shooting and the aftermath. It's all part of the trial of Antelmo Juarez, 16, accused of murder as an accomplice to the Feb. 19, 2006, shooting. The shooting happened on
Justin Leighty
Posted on May. 2, 2007 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May. 2, 2007 at 7:11 p.m.

GOSHEN -- Jurors heard Tuesday about the death of Rogelio Reyes Fernandez from the perspective of the gang members in the car with him and from the police who investigated it.

Today they'll hear from rival gang members involved in the shooting and the aftermath. It's all part of the trial of Antelmo Juarez, 16, accused of murder as an accomplice to the Feb. 19, 2006, shooting.

The shooting happened on Elkhart Road as part of a mobile fight involving three vehicles that left a club just west of downtown, according to testimony. At one point a teen fired a paint-ball gun from an SUV toward the car carrying Rogelio. Another passenger in that car talked about what happened.

"I said, 'Let's crash them,'" Cesar Guzman told the jury. The driver, Saul Rodriguez, "said, 'All right.' He started crashing them from the back, hitting them with the car," Guzman said. Rodriguez used his car to ram the SUV three times.

A few seconds later he heard gunshots. Rodriguez was hit, and a friend in the back seat called out Rogelio's name.

Guzman reached over to the steering wheel and directed the car to Mega Plaza. He got out of the car in the cold night and opened the back door.

"I seen Rogelio with a bunch of blood all over him. I seen smoke coming from his head. I looked at his eyes -- there was nothing there," Guzman testified.

He summoned police.

Oscar Perez, Juarez's brother, was convicted last year of firing the shots. This week, jurors will decide if Juarez is guilty of the same murder and of criminal gang activity.

"The facts of this case really are not in dispute," argued Vicki Becker, chief deputy prosecutor. " Nobody's going to say that Oscar Perez wasn't the shooter. He was. Nobody's going to say Henry Garcia wasn't driving the car. He was."

She continued, "Antelmo Juarez wasn't the shooter, he didn't pull the trigger, but he made it possible."

Juarez took the gun out of the house to go make trouble with rival gang members, Becker said, and Perez "couldn't possibly have done it without his brother, Antelmo Juarez, handing him the gun."

Juarez's attorney, David Newman, said his client was guilty of gang activity and told the jury Juarez did hand the gun to Perez. The murder, though, happened because of Perez's actions, Newman said.

The shooting was the second fatal gang shooting in Goshen in 10 months. Saul Rodriguez's twin brother was convicted of recklessness in the earlier shooting, and Rogelio's two older brothers were convicted of criminal gang activity in that shooting.

The boy killed in the earlier shooting was affiliated with the Vatos Locos gang, which has some ties to the Nortenos, the gang to which Perez, Juarez, Garcia and their friends had ties, according to testimony in the cases.

That night was the first time Rogelio went out with his older friends since the earlier gang shooting, said José Mederos.

Just like at Perez's trial, Saul Rodriguez refused to testify Tuesday. He told Prosecutor Curtis Hill, "I plead the fifth, Homie."

Hill asked him, "What is the fifth, Mr. Rodriguez?"

"I have no idea, but they told me to say it," Rodriguez replied, apparently a reference to fellow prison inmates. He's serving a sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the earlier trial.

If jurors convict Juarez this week, he could face up to 68 years in prison.

Contact Justin Leighty at jleighty@etruth.com.



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