Second jury reaches guilty verdict

Second jury reaches guilty verdict

Richard Reyes, one of two men on trial for the 2009 killing of a Lompoc teenager, was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday, two days after his partner in the shooting met the same fate.

Reyes, 21, and Roberto Barrera, 22, were found guilty of killing 14-year-old Daniel Rodriguez on Jan. 14, 2009, in a random gang shooting. Both are members of the Lompoc street gang “VLP,” Varrio Lamparas Primera.

The men stood trial together with separate juries. Barrera’s jury found him guilty Monday.

Both were convicted of first-degree murder with special enhancements, including that the killing was done as part of a gang activity and that both used guns.

Barrera’s jury found all three special allegations true. Reyes’ jury deadlocked on one of the allegations that he personally used a firearm in the killing. Rodriguez was hit by just one bullet as the defendants both fired several shots.

Both men face a maximum of 50 years to life in prison for the crime.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Edward Bullard scheduled their sentencing for Dec. 15 in the Santa Maria courthouse.

“We see a lot of gang cases, but this was particularly cold and callus because they didn’t know Daniel Rodriguez at all. They were simply looking for somebody from Daniel’s neighborhood to kill,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley, who prosecuted the case.

Reyes and Barrera were accused of being the triggermen in the shooting, in which the VLP was targeting the rival South Side gang members.

Keith Sullivan, another VLP gang member who drove the car used in the shooting, and two other VLP members fingered Reyes and Barrera for the murder. Sullivan pleaded guilty to lesser weapons charges in exchange for his testimony against the two defendants.

According to investigators, the trio spotted Rodriguez walking in the alley with a group of friends. Sullivan stopped the car and Reyes and Barrera opened fire.

The Vandenberg Middle School student was hit once in the lower back with a .22-caliber bullet. He was taken to Lompoc Valley Medical Center and died from his injuries two days later.

Rodriguez’s mother Yolanda and sisters Brenda and Olga sat through much of the trial, during which autopsy photos of Daniel were displayed. The trial began Sept. 26 and featured seven days of testimony with 27 witnesses.

“I don’t feel so much at peace because my son is gone, but I do feel justice has been done for him,” Yolanda said through interpreter Sylvia Lazos, Santa Barbara County’s victim-witness advocate. “I would like Daniel to be remembered that he was very friendly, very funny, always happy and well known to the community, and he was just a normal kid.”

Foley credited the work of the Lompoc Police Department with making the arrests and providing him with enough evidence to earn the convictions. The department obtained both videotape interviews and recorded telephone conversations that led to Barrera’s arrest and both convictions, he said.

The jury that convicted Reyes needed two and a half days to reach its verdict, while the jury that found Barrera guilty took just 90 minutes of deliberation after witnessing the same trial.

“I think it is a function of the jury process being an entirely human process. You can have two juries see the same evidence and one convicts in 90 minutes and the other convicts in two and a half days,” he said.

Yolanda Rodriguez said she and her daughters sat through the trial to find out exactly what happened and why.

“I would like the public to be aware that this was a very senseless crime, and that we all should be more vigilant of what goes on around us,” Olga said. “We should get more involved in the community to stop these types of crimes because it affects families in the worst way.”

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