Two Oakland men were convicted of first-degree murder today for the shooting death of 14-year-old Ricardo Cortez Jr. last year in what prosecutors believe was a case of mistaken identity in which a gang member was the intended target.Jurors announced their verdicts against Julio Montano, 23, and Francisco Zamora, 29, after deliberating for a little more than two days.Montano was also convicted of firing the shot that killed Ricardo as he was riding his bicycle in the 1700 block of 47th Avenue in Oakland at about 8:40 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2009. Montano faces a term of 50 years to life in state prison when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer sentences him on Dec. 10.Zamora, who prosecutors say was the driver in the incident, was also convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and faces 26 years to life when Hymer sentences him on the same date. Prosecutor Casey Bates said Zamora was a founding member of the South Side Locos gang, which is affiliated with the Surenos gang, and that he and Montano, who also belonged to the gang, were looking for revenge for the shooting death of one of their associates three days earlier.That killing occurred at the Rainbow Recreation Center on 58th Avenue and International Boulevard in Oakland, and the shooter was a member of the rival Border Brothers gang, Bates said.Ricardo wasn’t a gang member and was simply playing tag with two friends when Montano and Zamora approached him. For some reason they thought he was affiliated with the Border Brothers gang, according to Bates.The prosecutor said Montano shot Ricardo multiple times and “left him dead in the street in front of the eyes of the other children.””This was a very important verdict because it removes two very dangerous people from our streets,” Bates said.In reference to a shooting Tuesday in which a 6-year-old girl was injured during what might have been a gang-related incident, he added, “Gang problems are out of control, and this is one step toward making our streets safer.” Montano’s attorney, Deborah Levy, declined to comment after the verdict.Zamora’s attorney, Barbara Thomas, said she believes Zamora is not guilty. She said Zamora was at his daughter’s birthday party and Montano was with another man when Ricardo was killed.She said the only evidence against Zamora was that he had been a South Side Locos gang member, had gang tattoos, and was seen in a videotape saying hello to Montano and shaking Montano’s hand when the two men ran into each other at a liquor store shortly before the shooting.Thomas said Zamora was trying to get away from gang life. He had his throat slit by gang members at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and nearly died after he refused an order to kill a rival gang member, she said.She also said the only witness who identified Zamora at the shooting scene was an admitted alcoholic whose testimony was unreliable. But Bates said jurors carefully evaluated the witness’s testimony and “unanimously decided he was credible and trustworthy.”Bates said it’s true that a gang member attacked Zamora in jail, but he believes the attack stemmed from a power struggle between the gang member and Zamora.He said he doesn’t think Zamora was trying to quit gang life because the liquor store videotape shows that he was hanging out in an area known for turf wars between rival gangs.Zamora’s mother stormed from the courtroom immediately after the verdict was announced and briefly quarreled with the four bailiffs who were guarding the courtroom.Two other women sobbed and hugged each other following the verdict.
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