2016 Staffing
Support Staff9

The District Attorney’s Gangs Division prosecutes the most serious gang crimes committed in San Diego County. This division is a vertical prosecution unit which combines Deputy District Attorneys with District Attorney Investigators to handle the uncommon and dangerous issues that arise in gang prosecutions. Led by Division Chief Frank Jackson and Assistant Chief Anthony Campagna, the division’s staff is some of the finest in the nation.

Gun-BulletsLast year, the Gangs Division continued to work with local, state, and federal law enforcement through numerous gang task forces. Through its zero-tolerance approach, the Gangs Division has been successful in addressing and reducing gang crime in San Diego County. Some of San Diego’s most violent gangs have been crippled through prosecuting and imprisoning their most violent members on armed assaults, robberies, shootings, and murder convictions. As a result, San Diego gang homicide rates are below average for the last two decades and below that of most major metropolitan cities.

Another area of gang suppression is the Border Crimes Task Force, which was founded in 2009 through a federal grant. Along with federal and state law enforcement, the task force investigates and prosecutes violent crime including murders, kidnappings, robberies and drug trafficking associated with major Mexican drug cartels. This task force coordinates efforts of law enforcement and prosecution to effectively reduce the gang and cartel crime in San Diego.

While there are hundreds of success stories in this division, the ongoing seriousness of gang violence in San Diego is reflected by the kinds of cases and defendants prosecuted in 2016.

Major cases included:

People v. Kevin Brizuela
Innocent victims, ages 13, 15, 16 and 17, were hanging out at a bench that served as a memorial to the victim of an earlier murder in a neighborhood park known for gang activity. Without warning, four men ran up the hill to the memorial site and opened fire, killing two and seriously injuring two others. The group of men yelled gang expletives as they left. An extensive investigation led to the arrest of four gang members. Deputy District Attorney Christine Bannon convicted the defendant, Kevin Brizuela, on all counts and he received a sentence of 100 years in prison. The remaining defendants eventually pleaded guilty and all received at least 25 years in prison.

People v. Kurese Bell
Defendant Kurese Bell and a friend, Marlon Thomas, robbed a smoke shop in April 2014. During the robbery, they became spooked and fled. As Bell was running, he turned around and fired a round, striking an area behind the cash register, just feet from where an employee had been standing. Four days later Bell and his friend committed a robbery at a marijuana dispensary in North Park. As they were preparing to leave, Thomas got into a struggle for the security guard’s gun. The guard shot Thomas twice and killed him. Bell immediately ran into the office and began firing rounds at the security guard, striking him in the pelvis. After three weeks on the run, Bell was located at a motel in Los Angeles and arrested. Deputy District Attorney Chris Moon convicted Bell of all counts including murder.

People v. Peter Johnson and Ian Guthrie
In May 2014, Lamar Canady was shot dead in the barbershop he owned. The man who shot him was identified as Dion Chambers – also known as Peter Johnson – a Jamaican national who had entered the country illegally after escaping from a Jamaican prison, where he was serving a sentence murder. Video footage of the crime showed at least three other men assisting Johnson, one of whom was identified as Ian Guthrie. Call detail records and cell tower data showed that Guthrie and Johnson were communicating immediately before they killed Canady. The investigation further revealed that the murder was a “hit” ordered in retaliation for the victim stealing over $250,000 of marijuana from a Jamaican drug dealer. Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach convicted Guthrie and Johnson of murder in a rare dual jury case.  Both defendants were sentenced to life in prison.

People v. Noel Alarid and Jose Avila
In July of 2014, a South County gang member was seated in his truck with a fellow gang member when he saw rival gang member Jose Avila. The two made eye contact and Avila walked away. But, instead of leaving the area, Avila went into a nearby alley and fired six rounds from a.22 caliber short-barrel rifle directly into the open door of the truck where the two were seated. One man was struck four times while the other fell out of the driver’s seat door and ran across the street to the apartment complex, uninjured. About a week later, Avila and Noel Alarid approached a group of four men and two women in a parking lot. Avila and the Alarid approached the group and began issuing gang challenges. Again, Avila opened fire using a.22 caliber short-barrel rifle. The victims ran away. One of them was shot in the back and died from his injury. The other was shot in the leg and survived. Deputy District Attorney Matthew Williams convicted both defendants. Defendant Alarid received 20 years in prison and defendant Avila received more than 200 years in prison.

People v. Emanual Peavy and Lamont Holman
Emanual “P Vicious” Peavy and Lamont “Baby Rob” Holman are both members of a violent local criminal street gang. One night in April 2014, Peavy and Holman drove into rival territory to hunt for enemies. Upon seeing the two eventual victims, a man and a woman, the defendants stopped their car, issued a gang challenge, and shot and killed the male victim. Holman pleaded guilty to the crime and is currently serving 38 years in prison. Deputy District Attorney Chris Lawson convicted defendant Peavy at a trial and he was sentenced to 89 years to life in prison.