Expert Claims Gang Members Driven By Pride

INDIO, Calif. - A gang expert testified today in the trial of an alleged Coachella gang member accused of involvement in a shooting that killed a 19- year-old woman that gang members often are motivated by pride.

``Everything they do is generated in the need to gain respect ... and they achieve that respect through the use of fear, intimidation and violence,'' said Charles Cervello, an investigator with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Cervello answered questions about gang culture and operations at the trial of 25-year-old Daniel Cardona Torres, who faces murder, attempted murder and other charges stemming from the Aug. 12, 2005, shooting death of Vanessa Torres -- to whom he is not related -- outside her boyfriend's family party on Ruby Street in Indio.

Her boyfriend and another man also were shot, but survived.

Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante told jurors in his opening statement last week that pride motivated Torres and two other men -- who had ties to the VCR 52 gang in Coachella -- to leave their territory and drive to Indio.

They thought they saw someone at the party flash gang signs, drove around the block a few times, and then Torres and Anthony Lares unleashed a ``hail of gunfire,'' Bustamante said.

The two other men, Lares and Jesse Sambrano, were convicted June 7 of first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting and were sentenced Sept. 30 to life in prison without parole.

Bustamante asked Cervello about how gang culture works and how members could fall in and out of favor and interact with other gangs. Cervello said flashing signs could lead to anything from a handshake to murder.

Ryan Monis, also an investigator with the District Attorney's Office, said he has often found indications of rivalries between Coachella and Indio gangs, like VCR and North Side Indio doing ``crossouts'' of each other's graffiti.

``If there's violence going back and forth, it's a pretty good indicator something is going on,'' Cervello said.

Bustamante said Torres, Lares and Sambrano agreed to ``deal with'' the people they thought flashed rival gang signs. The prosecutor said Torres told investigators in a taped interview that he didn't ``feel like it,'' but still participated.

Torres' attorney, Andrea Rathburn, countered that he aimed at an unoccupied car so he would not hurt anyone. She said Lares fired most of the shots, and the only shot that Torres fired that hit someone ricocheted off the car he shot at.

``The heart of this case is intent,'' Rathburn said in her opening statement. ``You'll learn about the senseless loss of life to Vanessa Torres, but you'll also hear Daniel never meant for Vanessa to be hurt.''

She said her client had made ``concrete steps to exit that gang'' and had a revolver with him the night of the shooting for protection from retribution from other gang members if he didn't comply with their wishes. He joined a gang mostly because his older brother did, and not to harm anyone, she said.

On the night of the shooting, ``he tells police, `I was telling them to stop, I was telling them to hold up,' '' Rathburn said.

She said the defendant fired four bullets from his revolver at the car as Lares fired his rifle at the crowd outside the home of Vanessa Torres' boyfriend, Jacob Rodriguez. Sambrano was driving.

The couple, who had planned to get married, and another man, Jesus Morin, were hit.

Torres is being held without bail at the county jail in Indio.

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