BARSTOW • Three Barstow gang members will stand trial for murder in the 2009 slaying of a member of their own gang.
On Thursday afternoon at the Barstow courthouse Judge John Gibson decided that there was sufficient evidence for Claudio Jimenez, 32, Rolando Gamez, 33, and Tomas Quintana, 26, to face a trial for the killing of Gilbert Chavez, 28. All four are known members of the Los Gents street gang.
Chavez's body was found on May 16, 2009 in a vacant desert area southwest of P Street and Linda Vista Road in the Barstow Heights area.
Barstow Police Detective Leo Griego — the only witness to testify — said that Chavez was killed by members of his own gang because they feared retaliation from the more powerful prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia.
Griego first told the court about video footage that he viewed from a surveillance camera mounted by San Bernardino County to catch illegal dumpers of trash. Although the camera did not capture the killing itself, the description of the vehicle seen in the footage matched that of a Nissan Altima that Jimenez had borrowed.
Griego testified next about interviews he conducted with people who had contact with Chavez on the night of his death.
Griego said that Chavez's cousin — with whom Chavez was living in Victorville — told him Chavez was on the telephone on May 15 with a friend whose boyfriend was in the Mexican Mafia, and he left the house to accompany his friend to Barstow.
Later interviews with Quintana revealed that the Los Gents gang had been threatened with death or bodily harm by the Mexican Mafia, who believed that Chavez was involved in a theft in Hesperia and needed to be punished.
Griego said witnesses at a birthday party on May 15 on Crestview Street in the Barstow Heights area said that Gamez, Jimenez, and Quintana brought Chavez to the party, and that the three were encouraging Chavez to drink alcohol.
Although Quintana denied being involved in the killing during initial interviews, Griego said Quintana admitted in September that he accompanied Gamez, Jimenez, and Chavez to the desert dumping area on May 16 and saw Jimenez fire a gun multiple times at Chavez.
Defense attorneys did not present arguments that the three should not be called to answer, with the exception of Quintana's lawyer, Jim Spring, who said that Quintana tried to tell Chavez to run away at the party and did nothing blameworthy.
Judge Gibson said Chavez is still dead, and Quintana did not meet the requirement to withdraw from conspiracy.
Gamez, Jimenez, and Quintana's next court date is scheduled for October 22. If convicted, they could face life in prison.
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