REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — Fourteen defendants accused of taking part in a series of gang-related killings and other violent crimes in East Palo Alto and throughout the Peninsula are being arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City today on a slew of charges.
The defendants were arrested earlier this year as part of a major gang crackdown known as “Operation Sunny Day,” referencing the code defendants allegedly used to talk about the killings on social media.
Three separate San Mateo County grand juries indicted all 14 defendants, as well as two others, on multiple counts including murder, attempted murder, giving false statements, robbery and attempting to bribe witnesses, in addition to numerous gang allegations, prosecutors said.
The indictments stemmed from a series of crimes committed in 2012 and 2013, including four murders in East Palo Alto and San Francisco, a freeway shooting in Belmont, a jewelry store robbery and alleged manipulation of witnesses to keep quiet about the crimes, according to the district attorney’s office.
The defendants are allegedly members of East Palo Alto gangs, according to court documents.
Of the 14 scheduled for arraignment today, the longest list of charges belong to 28-year-old Raymond Bradford, Emmanuel Hyland, 25, Eric Vargas, 20, and 26-year-old Marvin Ware.
Hyland, Vargas and Bradford were all connected with the October 2012 fatal shooting of Stoney Lamont Gipson in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, according to the grand jury indictment.
Prosecutors said Hyland and Bradford, along with co-defendant Tyrone Love-Lopez, 21, were also involved in the murder of Jonathan Neri Alzacar in East Palo Alto in January 2013 and that Vargas, Bradford and Ware were responsible for a September 2012 shooting and crash on U.S. Highway 101 in Belmont that injured three people.
According to the indictment, the freeway shooting was an attempt on the life of an alleged gang member who Ware attempted to bribe into falsely testifying in their favor.
Hyland, Ware, Love-Lopez, 24-year-old Roberto Bustos-Montes and Nina Cragg, 24, all face charges in connection with the Jan. 26, 2013, murder of 21-year-old Lamont Coleman in East Palo Alto.
The indictment alleges that the defendants gunned him down because they believed he had cooperated with police.
Defendants Leonard Gaines, 22-year-old Rodney Mitchell of East Palo Alto and 26-year-old Robert Wheller Jr. of Hayward are charged along with Bradford in connection with an attempted armed robbery at Plaza Jewelers in unincorporated Menlo Park on Jan. 16, 2013.
After crashing into another car in the area and fleeing the scene on foot, two of the suspects were arrested.
Cragg and Roshawn Bickman are also charged with helping to prepare false testimony for alleged gang member Donte Demon Jordan, 19.
Two other Operation Sunny Day defendants, Menlo Park residents Jerry Coneal III, 19, and Miguel Rivera Jr., 23, are charged with murder for the October 2012 killing of 21-year-old Christopher Baker in East Palo Alto.
Rivera and Coneal are in custody in other counties and will be brought back to San Mateo County for a future arraignment, according to the district attorney’s office.
All 16 defendants are in custody, prosecutors said.
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