Tag Archive for: gang violence

Gang Boss Sentenced to Life Without Parole for Ordering Murder Hit While in Prison

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that defendant and criminal street gang boss Jesus Faraj, 45, was sentenced to life without the possibility parole plus 60 years for ordering an execution-style murder of 32-year-old Jimmy Khieu in February 2019.

On Super Bowl Sunday, 2019, Khieu was shot through the head and left for dead in a drainage ditch in the Fox Canyon neighborhood of San Diego. There were no initial suspects and an investigation ensued, leading to the arrest, charging, and convictions of Faraj and three other defendants who worked at Faraj’s behest to track and kill the victim.

“This defendant is a ruthless criminal who casually ordered a murder from his prison cell,” DA Stephan said. “This case demonstrates that gang violence has a long and far reach of destruction leaving wounds in our community that last a lifetime. We will never stop fighting to make neighborhoods safe from the scourge of gang violence.”

Faraj was the leader of one biggest criminal street gangs in San Diego. While in prison for nearly 20 years on other charges, he rose through the ranks of the gang. At the time of the murder, Faraj used mobile phones from a prison cell to routinely orchestrate criminal activity in San Diego. This included obtaining and distributing large quantities of drugs and guns to put onto the streets of what he considered his neighborhood in order to obtain money, power, and control of the neighborhood. He was feared by many and had loyal gang members ready to do his bidding on the streets.

Apart from the murder, Faraj demonstrably ordered assaults and kidnappings of other victims that were captured on video and introduced in the trial. Ultimately, the jury found that Faraj planned the murder of Jimmy Khieu, which was perpetrated by another longstanding gang member who pled guilty to first degree murder before the trial. This case highlights the commitment to violence and terror that gang leaders show and how much of an impact they have in our community, even while incarcerated.

On November 29, co-defendant and shooter Peter Burgos was sentenced to 29 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a gun and admitted the murder was to benefit the gang. Co-defendant Steven Chavez was sentenced to 17 years in prison on July 14 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter to benefit the gang. Co-defendant Kristin Zarate was sentenced to 12 years in prison in October 2022 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter to benefit the gang.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Oscar Hagstrom with the support of his team.


Gang Member Charged in Shooting that Left Young Woman Paralyzed

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that an attempted murder charge has been filed against Juan Diaz Velazco, 19, in connection with a gang shooting that left an innocent 17-year-old female bystander paralyzed. Diaz Velazco is also charged with assault with a firearm and other gun charges. He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces 72 years to life in prison. He is being held without bail.

The charges stem from an incident on October 28 in which gang members issued gang challenges to rivals outside of a high school party. Diaz Velazco fired the first shots which hit and paralyzed an innocent girl, who was a high school cheerleader. Diaz Velazco was ultimately apprehended after a multiweek extensive investigation conducted by the San Diego Police Department and District Attorney’s Office Gang Units.

“This case demonstrates the destructive consequences of gang violence on neighborhoods and people who want to live in peace,” DA Stephan said. “We will keep fighting to make our neighborhoods safe and hold criminals accountable.”

Diaz Velazco will be in court again on December 12 for a readiness hearing and on December 15 for a preliminary hearing.

This case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley.


Gang Member Sentenced in Shooting Death of Alpha Project Security Guard

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that defendant Johnny Hill, a member of a criminal street gang, was sentenced to 55 years to life plus an additional 26 years in prison in connection with a 2019 shooting that left one man dead and another injured.

Hill and co-defendant, Floyd Garrett, who will be sentenced on January 22, were found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder with a special allegation of personal gun use causing death, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm on September 14.

“Our office will never stop fighting to make neighborhoods safe from violence,” DA Stephan said. “Ernest Buchanan Jr. was a beloved member of the Alpha Project family and his own family, and his life was mercilessly taken without justification. San Diego Police Department Detectives working with the DA Gangs Unit put this case together piece by piece in order to obtain justice for the victims and hold the offenders accountable. Although this sentence will not bring back Ernest Buchanan Jr., we hope his family finds a measure of justice in the jury verdict and sentence in this case.”

The Alpha Project homeless shelter, located at 1700 Imperial Ave., lies within territory claimed by ‘Crip’ criminal street gang sets and is an area primarily used for gang related drug sales and acts of violence. Over the past two years, San Diego Police have responded to 6,187 calls involving violence: notably, seven homicides, 298 robberies, 1,280 assaults and 1,800 violent disturbances.

In December 2019, Buchanan Jr., and Dorian Cunningham were security guards for the Alpha Project homeless shelter at 1700 Imperial Ave. On the night of the shooting, the men left in Buchanan’s truck to get a snack during their break. In the meantime, the defendants, members of a criminal street gang, arrived in the area in a white sedan. The City of San Diego’s Environmental Street Cameras and the Alpha Project’s surveillance system captured the defendants as they walked together to a dark alcove across from the shelter and waited. When the victims returned and parked their car, Cunningham walked into the administration trailer and Buchanan followed shortly after walking across Imperial Ave. Together, the defendants fired multiple rounds at Buchanan, and he died shortly thereafter at the hospital. Cunningham was grazed in the leg and did not sustain life threatening injuries. After the shooting, the defendants fled from downtown only six minutes after arriving.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry with the support of his team.