AVentura County jury spent more than six days deliberating the fate of two gang members charged with a deadly shooting on the top floor of the parking structure at Ventura’s beachfront promenade before finding them guilty on all but one of the charges on Dec. 1.
Ventura resident Alejandro Hernandez, 21, was killed in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2020, and a second victim was wounded in the shooting near Harbor Boulevard and California Street, authorities said.
The trial for Raymond Bolanos, 27, of Oxnard and Santa Paula resident Julian Nunez, 29, lasted for more than nine weeks. They were caught following a pursuit that ended with a crash in Oxnard.
Prosecutor Cynthia Nguyen told the Ventura County Reporter why the trial took so long.
“We had multiple crime scenes, several witnesses. We had forensic evidence, police officers testifying,” Nguyen explained. “This case was separated into two separate proceedings because of a law that was passed effective this year, requiring us to try the gang allegation separate from the substantive charges. So we had to try the charges first. And after we received a guilty verdict on those charges, we then proceeded to a second bifurcated trial on the gang allegation.”
Nguyen said evidence at the trial showed the victim was with a group of young men hanging out on top of the beachfront parking structure after leaving a bar, when a red Ford Mustang drove up with two men and two women inside, including the co-defendants.
“This unknown car comes up and a shooting happens and it was shocking to them,” she said of the victims.
The jury did not hear any evidence that the murder victim was a gang member, Nguyen said.
“The evidence I presented at trial was that the defendants, both of them gang members, were hanging out in the city of Ventura together, which is outside of their territory. And for whatever reason, they may have believed that the victim group, there were six of them, that they might be gang affiliated. So they went and started a confrontation. It’s pretty senseless,” she said.
The jury found Bolanos guilty of all the counts with which he was charged, including second degree murder, attempted murder, discharging a firearm from a vehicle and being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to prosecutors, he is facing a maximum sentence of 90 years to life, plus an additional 39 years and four months in state prison.
Nunez was found guilty of charges including assault with a deadly weapon and being a felon in possession of a weapon, but the jury found him not guilty of shooting from the vehicle.
“Essentially, it’s a drive-by shooting and he was really charged as an accomplice with that. He was not the person who the district attorney’s office said was the shooter, but he was aiding and abetting and he was found not guilty of that,” said Nunez’s defense attorney, Martin Zaehringer.
The charge that Nunez was acquitted on carried a potential life prison sentence, Zaehringer said. “I am thrilled for my client for the not guilty verdict. That had the potential of life imprisonment, being an aider and abettor on a homicide. I knew that my client was probably going to be found guilty on possession of weapons, and I really hoped that the jury would accept my argument that my client displayed the gun as a warning and not a threat, but they didn’t. They found that it was an assault rather than simply a warning.”
Prosecutors said the charges Nunez was found guilty of make him eligible for a state prison sentence of 34 years and four months.
Sentencing for both men is set for Jan. 20, 2023.
The defense lawyer for Bolanos, Randy Tucker of the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office, did not respond to an interview request.