The trial of four reputed gang members accused of carrying out a drive-by killing in Indio will resume with prosecution testimony Wednesday after a weeklong postponement.
The trial was postponed due to scheduling conflicts and Presidents’ Day, attorney Jose Rojo said. Closing statements are expected to be delivered this week as Deputy District Attorney Jacob Silva filed a request on Feb. 7 for jurors to be instructed on the set of legal rules to be followed when deciding the case.
Cesar Monzon Jr., 29, Angel Lopez, 30, Andrew Marquie Malanche, 27, and Jose Antonio Armendariz, 35, are charged with murder and gang allegations stemming from the Aug. 7, 2016, shooting death of Adrian Valdez, 22, of Indio. Valdez was found wounded at 12:43 a.m. in front of a home in the 82600 block of Mountain View Avenue. He died about four hours later at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
Prosecutors contend the defendants carried out the shooting as an act of retribution for the death of a fellow gang member.
Surveillance footage from an Indio 7-Eleven and from Mountain View Avenue show the occupants of a Chevrolet Caprice and a Toyota Sequoia congregating at the convenience store and then traveling to the shooting scene, according to police.
A security camera from a nearby home captured gunfire coming from both sides of the Toyota, while the Chevrolet sped eastbound on Mountain View Avenue, out of the camera’s view. Police said the assailants apparently were met with return fire from the group of people at the shooting scene.
Lopez and Malanche showed up at Indio’s JFK Memorial Hospital later that day, according to police. Malanche was hospitalized with a single gunshot wound that entered through his backside, while Lopez was treated for a graze wound.
Hospital security officials told police that upon arrival, Lopez was seen taking a backpack from the Caprice and hiding it near the north side of the emergency room, police said. Officers recovered the backpack, which contained two handguns and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition, according to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant.
According to the affidavit, Lopez told police he was inside the Caprice during the shooting, but he did not admit to shooting Valdez.
Malanche told detectives he was driving by the Mountain View Avenue home with Lopez when they were fired upon. Malanche said he was “scared” and that he and Lopez fired several shots at their attackers in retaliation, according to the affidavit.
Malanche’s attorney, Jose Rojo, told jurors on Jan. 28 that his client had only been in the valley “for a month and change before the shooting” and had “never been in trouble before, never been in gangs before, even though he grew up here in Indio.” He had previously been working in Texas, and did not know any of the other members accused in the shooting, other than Lopez, his attorney said.
Armendariz, who police say was driving the Toyota, was arrested after officers tracked down the SUV’s registered owner, who told police that Armendariz usually drove the vehicle. Police found Armendariz at the registered owner’s home on Aug. 8 and arrested him on an outstanding warrant alleging assault with a deadly weapon.
Police said Armendariz refused to speak with detectives about the shooting, but a warrant was served the following day to search the Toyota. Three bullet holes were seen on the outside of the SUV and ammunition was allegedly found inside, prosecutors said.
Attorneys for Lopez and Armendariz did not make opening statements at the trial.
Prosecutors said Monzon fled the country following the shooting and was arrested three weeks later when a fugitive task force located him in Mexicali, Mexico, where several relatives reside.
Detectives were tipped to Monzon’s alleged involvement after a parole officer told them Monzon had cut off his GPS ankle monitor on the night of the shooting, according to a court declaration.
His movements just prior to the shooting brought him to within 40 yards of the Mountain View Avenue residence, according to the declaration. The parole officer told police the ankle bracelet was removed shortly after 12:50 a.m.
Monzon’s attorney, James Silva, denied that Monzon had a weapon the night of the shooting.
“Mr. Monzon is in the backseat of the Caprice when the shooting takes place,” he said. “He’s in the backseat. But, there is no evidence to show that he had any type of gun in his possession when the shooting took place … nor is there any evidence to show he was ever in possession of this gun.”
The four defendants face life in prison without parole if convicted.