NORWALK — A judge sentenced three gang members Friday for the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Pico Rivera boy with no gang ties and the attempted murder of his teenage friend.
Norwalk Superior Court Judge John Torribio sentenced Michael “Whisper” Barrios, 30, of Pomona and Thomas “Soldier” Arellanes, 28, who was homeless at the time of his arrest, to 82 years to life in prison for the Nov. 1, 2010 slaying of El Rancho High School student Robert Velazquez of Pico Rivera in the 4000 block of Zola Avenue, said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford, who prosecuted the case. Velazquez’s friend, Ruth Rodriguez, escaped injury.
Fellow convict Enrique “Wacky” Medina, 34, of Pomona received a sentence of 42 years to life, Lunsford said. He is Barrios’ step-brother.
All three killers are members of the Brown Authority street gang, officials said. In addition to charges of murder and attempted murder, the jury also found true a special, sentence-enhancing allegation that the crime was gang-related.
The jury further found true another special allegation on the parts of Barrios and Arellanes that a gun was used in the slaying, Lunsford said.
“We got justice that was fair,” said Velazquez’s father, Jose Velazquez. “Now my son can rest completely, be in peace.”
“They’ll never hurt anyone else again,” the father added.
“I think this is a fair sentence,” the prosecutor said. “It’s obviously not going to bring Robert back to life, but at least there’s some justice being served. I hope this brings some sense of closure and peace to the Velazquez family.”
Robert Velazquez’s mother, Janice Rodriguez, also said she felt justice had been served for her son.
“As sad as it is, they got everything that they deserved,” she said. “I hope they feel remorse, I hope they feel sorrow and I hope they feel guilt for what they did, because they’ll have plenty of time to think about it,” Rodriguez said.
At the time of Velazquez’s killing, Brown Authority was feuding with another area gang, Pico Viejo, Lunsford said.
Velazquez was not involved with gangs, Lundsford said. “He just happened to be in a neighborhood that is considered Pico Viejo territory.”
According to court testimony, the killers were out looking for a rival gang member when they came across Robert Velazquez, who was standing in front of a home with a female friend.
In the hours leading up to the shooting, two men testified they were approached by gang members who questioned them about their gang affiliation and asked whether they belong to Pico Viejo.
When the men responded they were not involved with gangs, the gang members left after patting down their pockets and checking one of their arms for gang tattoos, according to testimony. One of the men identified Medina as the man who approached him prior to Velazquez’s slaying.
Velazquez was not confronted before being fatally shot, investigators said. One of the killers opened fire without warning from a passing SUV.
“Barrios’ SUV actually circled the block several times before the shooting occurred,” Lunsford said, likening the gang members to “a shark circling its prey.”
Janice Rodriguez said she often thought of her son’s young friend Ruth Rodriguez, who witnessed his slaying and narrowly avoided being shot herself.
“I just pray she didn’t get affected,” Janice Rodriguez said. “She’s so young.”
TOP: Defendants Enrique Medina, left, Michael Barrios, center, and Thomas Arrellanes, right, receive guilty verdicts in the drive-by shooting death of a 17-year-old Pico Rivera resident at Norwalk Superior Court on Thursday December 6, 2012. They were found guilty in the Nov. 1, 2010, drive-by shooting of Robert Velazquez , of Pico Rivera, and the attempted murder of his friend, Ruth Rodriguez, in front of her home in the 4000 block of Zola Avenue.(SGVN/Staff photo by Keith Durflinger)
BELOW: Robert Velazquez, 17, of Pico Rivera, was shot to death Nov. 1, 2010, in a shooting in the the 4000 block of Zola Avenue. Three gang members have been convicted of first-degree murder for the slaying. (Courtesy)