SAN JOSE -- Prosecutors said the young Sureno hit men were gunning for status and the gang tattoos that come with the killing of rival Nortenos.
An older shot-caller picked the victim: Homer Bejarano Resendez, a 45-year-old man chosen because he had the wrong affiliation for the West San Jose neighborhood where he lived. He was gunned down in front of his home in March 2008, and on Tuesday, a Santa Clara County jury handed down the last two convictions in the case after a monthlong trial.
Richard Orestes Guerrero, 39, and Israel Eduardo Lopez, 22, each face 50 years to life in prison when they are sentenced in January after being convicted of first-degree murder.
"When Lopez was arrested, he confessed that he was just putting in 'work,'" deputy district attorney Kevin Smith stated in a news release. "His 'work' for the gang was killing a 45-year-old man sitting on his front porch and nearly killing a 13-year-old girl who was doing homework while her grandmother watched a Sharks game."
Resendez's slaying was one of 12 homicides in a bloody, seven-week stretch that occurred during a spike in gang violence.
Prosecutors said evidence revealed Guerrero, known as "Sapo," had the power to order hits for the city's largest Sureno subset and sent the men to kill Resendez.
On March 8, 2008, Lopez, known as "Youngster," and two other men drove to Resendez's home on Cape Cod Court in a stolen Honda. Lopez, who was 18 at the time, shot Resendez four times with a .357 Magnum.
Another shooter, Miguel Calzada, missed his target and was previously sentenced to 21 years in prison. The driver of the car, Arturo Tadeo Hernandez, was sentenced to seven years. Calzada and Hernandez are about the same age as Lopez.
When the hit men struck, Smith said bullets flew into the front room of the house and narrowly missed the young girl and her grandmother.
Police investigators talked to witnesses and used cellphone records to connect the killing to the Surenos. The three in the car were arrested in June 2008. Guerrero was taken into custody after a five-hour standoff at his Sunnyvale home that October. In his garage, investigators found the murder weapon.
Guerrero and Lopez were found guilty of first-degree murder, shooting into an inhabited dwelling and assault with a firearm on the teenage girl, all with enhancements for the use of a firearm and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang.
"Guerrero told the jury that he is a proud Sureno," Smith said in the release. "The jury, by their verdict, has given him the additional label of murderer."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.