Three men are facing nearly 20 years in prison each when they are sentenced in Monterey County next month for their involvement in a violent crime spree last November. Joe Hernandez, 29, Ramiro Vasquez, and Manuel Del Real, both 22, entered no contest on Thursday to a variety of charges in connection with a November 2010 crime spree that began in Fresno County, traveled through Monterey County and ended in San Luis Obispo County. All are residents of Fresno. Hernandez and Vasquez are members of a Fresno gang called “Bulldog,” while Del Real is a member of the Sureno gang, but also associates with Bulldog.
On Nov. 28, 2010 an officer stopped the men and a fourth passenger named Flora Encinia, 32, in Pacific Grove while they were on their way from Fresno to Monterey County in a stolen Lincoln Navigator, according to prosecutors. The officer stopped them for a seatbelt violation but as he was walking toward the car, the officer saw movement inside the car that prompted him to run behind a building and hide, prosecutors said. The car then took off with Hernandez behind the wheel. Around the same time an attempted carjacking was reported along state Highway 1. The victim told police he was sitting in his car when two men, one of whom was armed, approached him. He said he ignored their demands to open his door and started to drive off. The man said shots were fired and shattered the glass in his car. He suffered minor injuries.
While deputies were responding to the attempted carjacking, they discovered a car that had been burglarized, prosecutors said. It appeared the four defendants took items from the car and then headed south to Gorda, where they stopped for gasoline. There, they held two gas station attendants at gunpoint and ordered one of them to fill the Navigator with gas while one of the suspects fired a shot in the direction of the other attendant, according to prosecutors. The four got back on the road and continued south to San Luis Obispo where they came across several deputies. Hernandez appeared as if he was going to pull over and stop the car, but then drove the Navigator at the deputies, prosecutors said.
In response, the deputies opened fire and Hernandez swerved away and got onto Highway 1, where he finally stopped the car. Prosecutors said all four defendants admitted to the stolen vehicle charge. Hernandez admitted to resisting arrest and to assault with a deadly weapon upon an officer, according to prosecutors. Del Real admitted to attempted murder with the personal use of a firearm and a gang enhancement. Hernandez and Vasquez admitted to shooting at an occupied vehicle and to a gun and gang enhancement. Vasquez, Hernandez and Del Real admitted to burglary of the vehicle and robbery at the gas station in Gorda. Encinia admitted to possession of stolen property. She is suffering from cancer and will be sentenced on Sept. 29. The three men will be sentenced on Aug. 16. If convicted as charged, Vasquez faces a possible sentence of 18 years and 8 months in prison, Hernandez faces 20 years in prison and Del Real faces 19 years. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation of the case.
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