Tag Archive for: San Diego County District Attorney

Man Sentenced for Convention Center Shootout

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that defendant Daniel Quiroz, 31, who was convicted by a jury last month of attempted murder and other charges, has been sentenced to 45 years-to-life in prison. Quiroz engaged in a shootout with a Harbor Police officer outside the San Diego Convention Center in March 2021, shortly after being pulled over for a traffic violation.

Quiroz was charged with attempting to kill a San Diego Harbor Police Officer and assault with a semi-automatic firearm on a civilian on March 1, 2021 near Fifth Avenue and Harbor Drive.

“This defendant had no regard for life when he recklessly engaged in a shootout on a downtown street,” DA Stephan said. “Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous situations for peace officers as this case clearly demonstrates, and the guilty jury verdict along with today’s prison sentence brings justice to the police officer and civilian victim in this case.”

 

The civilian victim was struck by a stray bullet during the shootout but was unharmed because the bullet was likely a ricochet that also deflected off of his eyeglasses case which he had in his back pocket. In addition to the attempted murder charge, Quiroz was convicted of three counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm.

Deputy District Attorney Frederick Washington prosecuted this case.

Fatal DUIs Spike Amid COVID-19

DA’s Office Receives Grant to Prosecute Serious DUI Cases

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office is receiving a $733,650 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for the ninth year in a row to prevent and prosecute impaired driving deaths and DUI-drug cases. The grant award comes as San Diego County experienced more fatal DUI crashes in 2021 than the county has seen in more than two decades.

Last year, 39 people were killed in 36 DUI-related crashes. So far in 2022, there has been a moderate decrease with 24 people killed, including a 1-year-old child.

“Prosecuting and investigating these important cases require a specialized team of prosecutors and investigators to be able to hold offenders accountable and deter this deadly behavior,” DA Stephan said. “The spike in the number of people dying at the hands of impaired drivers in recent years is disturbing. As the holiday season approaches, people need to make responsible choices, use ride sharing services and keep their friends and family from getting behind the wheel if they are impaired.”

Data shows average blood-alcohol levels of drivers involved in Driving Under the Influence cases are also higher than last year at over .18%. Prosecutors say that more than half of individuals being arrested for driving under the influence have both alcohol and drugs in their system—a deadly combination.

The grant will allow the DA’s DUI Homicide Unit to continue its critical work. The unit, which launched in 2014, streamlines complex DUI cases by creating expertise within the DA’s Office. The specialized unit creates uniformity in sentencing among the four adult courthouses. In addition, the unit helps law enforcement adapt to changes in technology by having a designated DA Investigator who is trained in the latest techniques in collision reconstruction. Since its inception, the unit has prosecuted nearly 200 cases and they have received more than $3.9 million in funding from the Office of Traffic Safety.

Funding will also be used to:

  • Provide training for a select prosecutor to become an expert in DUI-drug cases.
  • Provide training for prosecutors and investigators through California’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program.
  • Host quarterly regional meetings with law enforcement partners to improve DUI investigations and prosecutions.

“With various alternative transportation options available, there are zero excuses and zero tolerance for driving after drinking or under the influence of a drug,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “The work of the vertical prosecution team is critical in addressing the serious dangers posed by impaired driving.”

In 2021, the District Attorney’s Office filed 5,695 DUI cases, including 134 DUI drug cases and 40 DUI cases in which both alcohol and drugs were present in the driver’s system. So far this year, the DA’s Office has filed 5,120 DUI cases including 192 DUI drug cases and 46 combined alcohol and drug impairment cases.

Funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety is provided through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

DA’s Office Adds Identity Theft Resource Center ‘Live Chat’ to Help Crime Victims

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office is partnering with San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) to provide a live chat box on the DA’s public website in an effort to support victims of identity crimes.

In adding the ability to live chat with the ITRC’s expert advisors to the DA’s website, victims can receive instant assistance on issues related to identity theft, identity fraud and data breaches. The ITRC identity theft advisors will also provide preventative information and customized plans to address identity concerns.

“We are always looking for ways to prevent crime in San Diego County and by adding this service to our website, in partnership with the Identity Theft Resource Center, we are providing real time support to would-be victims of identity theft,” DA Stephan said. “Identity theft can financially devastate people and businesses, so we want the public to use resources that are available to help them make smart decisions and protect their personal identifying information.”

The ITRC, which was founded in 1999, is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime. It was established to empower and guide consumers, victims, businesses and the government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime.

“We are thrilled to join with the San Diego DA’s office to help identity crime victims in San Diego County,” said Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Our partnership allows us to reach more people in San Diego County who need help recovering from or preventing identity theft or fraud. Victims of identity crimes require unique support to recover from having their personal information misused. It is our mission to provide that.”

More than 7% of the ITRC’s total cases in 2022 are from victims who live in California who have sought help about compromised personally identifiable information due to scams, and the misuse of personal information through existing account takeover. The Google Voice scam is the ITRC’s top reported scam from California this year.

When using the chat, ITRC advisors will:

  • Ask what happened
  • Ask a series of questions to help determine the scope of the problem
  • Provide a custom plan of action and steps to take

Advisors will assist victims live in English or Spanish during business hours or through direct follow-up when contacted after hours and on weekends. The ITRC is also committed to providing access to everyone seeking help. Read the accessibility initiative here. Anyone can contact an advisor toll-free by using the ITRC live-chat on idtheftcenter.org or by calling 888.400.5530.

Murderer Sentenced for 2015 Killing

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that defendant Roger Hernandez, 34, who was convicted in April of murder, has been sentenced to 67years-to-life in prison for killing 18-year-old Juan Muñoz, Jr. in 2015. Munoz was murdered as he was returning from buying soft drinks and snacks when he crossed paths with gang members.

In October 2015, Roger Hernandez and Luis Karam chased down Muñoz, thinking he was a rival gang member. When the teen stopped at a stop sign on the same block where his friends were fixing a car, Karam pulled in front of his car preventing Muñoz from being able to drive away. Hernandez got out of the car and issued a gang challenge. Before Muñoz could answer, Hernandez repeatedly fired into the car with a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun. Hernandez shot Muñoz multiple times through the arm, shoulder, and neck, killing him.

In 2018, the case had gone cold when the DA’s Office revisited the case. Working with National City Police, prosecutors and DA investigators they were able to narrow in on two suspects and develop additional evidence.

Hernandez was arrested for the murder in November 2018. One week later, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force attempted to arrest co-defendant Karam, but he fled. When caught, he attempted to take his own life, but survived and was ultimately taken into custody. Karam was sentenced to 20 years in state prison in July after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, admitting to an allegation that the killing was done for the benefit of a criminal street gang and that a deadly weapon was used during the offense.

“This innocent young victim was hunted by violent gang members and was tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time,” DA Stephan said. “A measure of justice has finally been delivered to the family of Juan Muñoz, Jr. We will continue to fight to keep every neighborhood safe from crime and address gang violence through prosecution and prevention.”

This latest gang-related sentencing comes as law enforcement officials are grappling with an increase in gang-related shootings and the ongoing proliferation of firearms – in particular, so-called untraceable “ghost guns.” DA Gang prosecutions increased from 368 in 2020 to 465 in 2021.

Juan Muñoz’ parents, Elizabeth and Juan Sr., have channeled their grief into activism over the years, including focusing on addressing mental health issues and trauma resulting from violence.

McLeod

Fugitive Murderer Arrested in Central America

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said today that defendant Raymond McLeod, 37, wanted for the murder of 30-year-old Krystal Mitchell in San Diego, was taken into custody Monday afternoon by El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities without incident. McLeod will be returned to San Diego County to face a charge of murder.

“This defendant’s brazen attempt to evade justice is over and the work to hold him accountable in a court of law for the murder of Krystal Mitchell can now begin,” said DA Stephan. “Huge credit goes to the victim’s mother who never gave up searching for her daughter’s killer and worked closely with our office and other law enforcement to make this arrest possible.”

McLeod confirmed his identity to members of the U.S. Marshals team and members of the U.S. Embassy, who were on the ground with the El Salvadoran local and national police when they took him into custody around 4:30 p.m. (Pacific time). Authorities had received a tip that McLeod had been teaching English at a school in Sonsonate.

Beginning in 2018, the DA’s Office coordinated with the U.S. Marshals Service to lead a targeted social media campaign in Spanish and English to encourage tips on McLeod’s whereabouts through Crime Stoppers. The DA placed Facebook and Instagram ads focused on users in Central America and Mexico. McLeod had been spotted in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize.

The victim’s mother, Josephine Funes Wentzel, is a former police detective has been instrumental in helping authorities search for McLeod. Wentzel has generated leads for law enforcement and helped spread word about the international manhunt on social media.

On June 10, 2016, San Diego police officers responded to a 911 call of a woman not breathing inside of an apartment in the 7600 block of Mission Gorge Road in San Diego. The woman, later identified a Krystal Mitchell from Phoenix, Arizona, was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Detectives from the San Diego Police Department’s Homicide Unit responded to the scene and determined that Mitchell was last seen alive with her boyfriend (Raymond McLeod). Mitchell and McLeod, also from Phoenix, had been in San Diego visiting friends.

McLeod fled to Mexico after Mitchell’s death. The District Attorney’s Office charged McLeod with murder in June of 2016 and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

DA Releases Annual Report

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today released the DA’s 2021 Annual Reportnoting a number of recent accomplishments across many different areas of her office’s mission.

“This report reflects the work of the dedicated DA team of prosecutors, investigators, victim advocates and staff working alongside law enforcement and the communities we serve to keep San Diego one of the safest urban counties in America,” said DA Stephan. “We will keep fighting for every child, adult and senior to live safely and with dignity.”

The Annual Report can be found here.

The report includes:

•         a breakdown of prosecutions by crime type

•         high-profile cases in which prosecutors delivered convictions

•         an innovative juvenile diversion program that is restoring the lives of youth

•         the fight to expand reporting of hate crimes and the tripling of hate crimes prosecutions

•         the opening of One Safe Place—the North County Family Justice Center

•         the expansion of mental health services in the county through Crisis Stabilization Centers

•         a re-energized fight against the fentanyl epidemic

•         an initiative to bring down organized retail crime rings

Double Homicide Defendant Sentenced for 1987 Cold Case

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a 62-year-old man who killed two people at a birthday party in Ramona then fled to Mexico for 32 years, has been sentenced to 34 years-to-life in prison by San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber for the 1987 slayings of German Aviles, 26, and Ventura Aviles, 21.

On May 27, a jury found Jose Solorio guilty of two counts of second-degree murder after deliberating for two days.

“Today, the families of German and Ventura Aviles received a measure of justice after decades of mourning their loss,” DA Stephan said. “The daughter of German Aviles had to grow up without her loving father over this senseless and violent act.”

During a birthday party for the 4-year-old daughter of German Aviles, Solorio got into an argument with the victims and other men over getting more beer for the party. The defendant became offended over an insult directed at him. He left the party and returned with a loaded handgun.

While standing in the doorway of the apartment, Solorio fatally shot German and Ventura Aviles, then shot and wounded another man inside the apartment. He then shot a fourth man outside the apartment who was returning to the home with beer.

Solorio immediately fled to Mexico, where he hid from law enforcement for 32 years. He was taken into custody in the City of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in April 2019 and extradited from Mexico City in December 2019.