2018 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 Robert Hickey, 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, including playing a pivotal role in locating drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman currently being prosecuted in New York.

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 2018.

Major cases included:

People v. Melvin Mahone
On December 16, 2016, at about 2 a.m. defendant Melvin Mahone, a 41-year-old gang member and sex registrant with a long criminal history, opened fire on the victim’s SUV on Balboa Avenue. The defendant became offended after the victim asked him to move his car that was blocking traffic during closing time at a restaurant and bar in San Diego. Mahone followed the victim out of the parking lot and fired at least six shots at the victim and his passenger. Fortunately no one was injured but the victim’s SUV was riddled with bullets and the driver’s side window was shattered. Deputy DA John Dunlap convicted the defendant of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, among other counts, and the defendant was sentenced to life in prison.

People v. Tyree Carter and Deshawn Dorsey
Gang members Tyree Carter and Deshawn Dorsey went on a violent crime spree in early 2016. They used Facebook to procure firearms in preparation to commit violence on behalf of the gang. In March, the defendants put their plans into action. They drove into rival territory and opened fire at a group of innocent bystanders in front of a market. About 30 minutes later, the defendants drove into another rival neighborhood where they shot and killed a young man while he stood in a driveway talking with friends. Multiple additional shootings followed. Deputy DA Christy Bowles convicted the defendants of murder, three attempted murders, and four assaults with a firearm, including shooting at innocent bystanders and a local family man who had walked to the market with his young son and daughter to buy cookies. The defendants each face life in prison.

People v. Dionicio Torrez

Defendant Dionicio Torrez was a gang member living at an apartment complex in Escondido. On March 7, 2017, defendant Torrez learned that rival gang members were tagging in his apartment complex. He ran to the front of the complex where two rivals were running to a waiting car. Defendant Torrez took out his gun and shot twelve times across a busy street at the fleeing taggers. One of the bullets hit and killed Catherine Kennedy, who was driving home from church. After a three-week trial led by DDA Laurie Hauf, the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts and allegations, including first degree special circumstance murder. Defendant Torrez faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

People v. Aaron Griffin
Gang member Aaron Griffin had been in an ongoing feud with Jamar Johnson. On May 17, 2016, defendant Griffin shot six rounds from a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun at a house in front of which Jamar Johnson’s car was parked. Luckily, none of the bullets that ripped through the windows and walls hit the innocent members of the unrelated family inside. Ten days later, Jamar Johnson and his six-month-old son were sitting in a vehicle stopped at the crowded intersection of Market and Euclid, waiting to make a left turn. Defendant Griffin positioned himself in victim Johnson’s blind spot, and, in broad daylight, opened fire on Jamar Johnson, uncaring that the baby sat directly in his line of fire. Bullets passed through the car seat, narrowly missing baby Omari, but hit Johnson. The trial was expertly presented by Deputy DA Robert Eacret. The jury convicted defendant Griffin of multiple charges, including first degree murder, for hunting down and killing Jamar Johnson. He was sentenced to life in state prison.

People v. Daniel Ramos and Elias Ramos

Daniel Ramos and Elias Ramos are violent gang members, who in the early morning hours of September 3, 2016, went to a park in the heart of their rival’s territory in Oceanside. There, they saw a 15-year-old named Annebell Flores sitting on a jungle gym near a child’s crawl tube talking to a close friend. Annebell saw the armed bandana-clad men and dove into the crawl tube for safety. Daniel Ramos fired twice into the crawl tube severing Annebell’s spine and killing her. Her friend was able to escape to safety. Deputy DA Shawn Tafreshi obtained justice for Annebell when the jury convicted both defendants of first-degree murder and when they were sentenced to life in prison.

People v. Aswad Walker
Investigations may go cold, but gang murders are never forgotten. More than 20 years after the death of Crystal Odom, Deputy DA David Bost brought her killer to justice. On April 20, 1995, Crystal Odom, her boyfriend, and their infant daughter were getting gasoline when they encountered a group of gangsters who were yelling and threatening them to the point that they left without getting gas. Unfortunately, the group followed Crystal and her boyfriend, flashing their lights. When they stopped at the intersection of 65th and Akins, the carload of gangsters pulled up next to them. Before Crystal could drive off, shots rang out from the car next to them. Crystal Odom was shot multiple times in the head and neck. When a break came in the investigation, charges were filed against Aswad Walker, who was convicted of murdering Crystal Odom. He was sentenced to life in prison.