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Gang members convicted for Indio drive-by murder

Four gang members have been convicted of first-degree murder for carrying out a drive-by shooting in Indio following a gang dispute at a cemetery. Cesar Monzon Jr., Angel Lopez, Andrew Marquie Malanche and Jose Antonio Armendariz are scheduled to be sentenced May 31 for the Aug. 7, 2016, shooting that left 22-year-old Adrian Valez dead.


Jury deliberation will continue into its second day today in a trial of four reputed gang members accused of carrying out a drive-by killing in Indio.

Cesar Monzon Jr., 29, Angel Lopez, 30, Andrew Marquie Malanche, 27, and Jose Antonio Armendariz, 35, are charged with first-degree murder and sentence-enhancing gang allegations stemming from the Aug. 7, 2016, drive-by attack.

“Loaded with guns, hunting, trying to get rid of evidence, fleeing — all suggest actions of guilty people,” Deputy District Attorney Jacob Silva told an Indio jury in his closing statement. “Everything about what happens suggests first-degree special circumstance murder. Everything.”

Closing arguments begin in Indio drive-by murder case

Silva pointed to videotape evidence as confirmation that the alleged perpetrators drove around hunting their “prey” — Adrian Valdez of Indio — for nearly 30 minutes following an unspecified gang dispute at the gravesite of Lopez’s cousin. However, Silva conceded the government could not prove which of the four men fired the fatal shot.

Valdez was wounded at 12:43 a.m. in front of a home in the 82600 block of Mountain View Avenue. He died about four hours later at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Murder trial continues for alleged gang members accused of drive-by shooting

Security surveillance videotape from an Indio 7-Eleven showed the occupants of a Chevrolet Caprice and a Toyota Sequoia congregating at the convenience store, then going to the Mountain View property, according to police.

A security camera mounted on a nearby home captured gunfire coming from both sides of the Toyota, while the Chevy sped away eastbound.

Drive-by shooting murder trial postponed

Armendariz’s attorney, John Dolan, said because no one could definitively say who fired the fatal shot, “none of these four people can be found guilty of this crime.”

“Proof — not a story — proof is required in order to find Mr. Armendariz guilty,” Dolan said.

Between 10 and 15 people were standing with Valdez at the time of the shooting, and according to Dolan, gunfire originating from within that group could have taken the young man’s life.

Indio drive-by murder trial continues

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling sent jurors behind closed doors Wednesday to begin weighing evidence from the nearly month-long trial.

The four defendants could each face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Armendariz, who police say was driving the Toyota, was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016, after officers tracked down the SUV’s registered owner, who told police that Armendariz usually drove the vehicle.

Arraignment postponed for 3 suspects accused of Indio gang shooting

Three bullet holes were identified on the exterior of the SUV, and ammunition was found inside, according to the prosecution.

Lopez and Malanche went to nearby JFK Memorial Hospital hours after the attack, according to police. Malanche was hospitalized with a single gunshot wound that entered through his backside, while Lopez was treated for a graze wound.

Police were notified, and officers seized a backpack belonging to Lopez that he had dropped near the emergency room. The backpack contained two handguns and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition, according to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant.

According to the affidavit, Lopez told police he was inside the Chevy Caprice during the shooting, but he did not admit to taking part.

Malanche told detectives he was driving by the Mountain View Avenue home with Lopez when they were fired upon. Malanche said he was “scared” and that he and Lopez fired several shots at their attackers in retaliation, according to the affidavit.

Malanche’s attorney, Jose Rojo, told jurors at the outset of the trial that his client had only been in the Coachella Valley “for a month before the shooting” and had “never been in trouble before, never been in gangs before, even though he grew up in Indio.”

Malanche had previously worked in Texas and did not know any of the other members accused in the shooting, other than Lopez, his attorney said.

Prosecutors said Monzon fled the country following the shooting and was arrested three weeks later when a fugitive task force located him in Mexicali, Mexico.

Detectives were tipped to Monzon’s alleged involvement after a parole officer told them Monzon had cut off his GPS ankle monitor on the night of the shooting, according to court papers.

His movements just prior to the shooting brought him to within 40 yards of the Mountain View Avenue residence, investigators said. The parole officer told police the ankle bracelet was removed about 12:50 a.m.

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