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Federal crime means more time
Use of assault pistol creates enhanced consequences
Mack11DSC 1377a
Manteca Police are sending the MAC-11 semi-automatic machine pistol to the Department of Justice Tuesday in their investigation into the Monday afternoon shooting on Greenbrier Avenue. - photo by GLENN KAHL
The use of an aging MAC-11 semi-automatic machine pistol may have elevated Monday’s drive-by shooting allegedly done by two illegal aliens that are also Sureno gang members to the level of a federal crime.

Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker said investigation of the crime using the 32-round assault weapon is being forwarded to U.S. Attorney’s office for possible federal prosecution. If that is the case the accused gang members could be facing even more time than under California’s tough laws that require enhanced prison sentences for gang members convicted of serious crimes using weapons.

The fact the suspects –Hector Gonzales, 18, and his brother Luis, 20 – are illegal aliens means they are being held in San Joaquin County Jail without bail. And since they are documented gang members they are facing enhanced sentencing should they be convicted of the crime.

The younger brother allegedly fired off shots from a home in the 400 block of Greenbrier Avenue just six blocks northwest of downtown near where Alameda Street crosses the Tidewater Bike Path. The intended victim was a passing motorist and his passenger. Shots ended hitting two parked cars plus two other shots struck the side of a nearby house.

The Manteca gang unit in the past year increased the number of documented gang members from 300 to 500. Meeting the legal threshold for documentation of a gang member is critical for law enforcement efforts to keep gangs in check as it is a requirement for mandatory sentencing enhancements for crimes they commit.

The best example of what can happen to a documented gang member is an incident two years ago. Manteca Police were able to connect “Bud” Gonzalez to five drive-by shootings including one he conducted while paying for a ride in a taxi. No one was hit in any of the shootings.

Since Gonzalez was a documented gang member he received a 68-year sentence for the five incidents despite the fact it was his first offense. Had he not been a documented gang member where the court was required to add the extended sentences under laws that address crimes taken to further the interests of a gang, the most he would have received was 16 months to two years.

Bricker clarified department staffing levels on Monday. While there were four patrol officers assigned exclusively to patrol, there were 13 sworn officers on duty Monday including the patrol sergeant, detectives, school resource officers, uniformed administrators, and traffic officers. If needed, all 13 officers could have responded.

It was an on-duty detective sergeant – Tony Souza – who apprehended the two suspects.

“Our minimum staffing levels are the same as they were two years ago for police patrols,” Bricker said.

There were actually six officers assigned to duty Monday. The other officers were either on vacation training or ill.

With cutbacks, the department was able to do that by thinning the ranks of special units such as gang, traffic, detectives, and drugs.

“There is no doubt we were much more effective at pro-active efforts with gangs when we had the full gang unit,” Bricker said.

The chief emphasized Manteca’s officers are still aggressively going after gang members that commit crimes.

While not trying to downplay the seriousness of the recent spate of gang violence that included four people receiving minor bullet rounds while standing in a residential garage near downtown and another confrontation on North Main that sent a stray bullets through the windows of Blockbuster Video narrowly missing a woman returning movies, Bricker said it is an ongoing problem that has been worse in the past.

He pointed to almost daily play gun four years ago in Southside Park that police eventually were able to get a handle on by aggressively going after perpetrators and gang leaders including a key member who was in his 50s and was discovered to be in the United States illegally.

They had a similar effort with gangs in the Northgate Park area.