A Sureno gang member was sentenced this morning for the highway shooting murder of Vallejo musician Dewey Tucker in 2010 and the slaying of a Santa Rosa man a year later. Raul Vega, 21, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a first-degree murder conviction for Tucker’s killing. He was also convicted of the special-circumstance charge of intentional discharge of a firearm, for which he was sentenced to 25 years to life. Additionally, he was given a consecutive 12-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter for the death of 20-year-old Juan Carlos Angel-Esparza. Vega was also found guilty of two counts of being a member of a criminal street gang and shooting into an inhabited vehicle.
He showed no emotion while a video about Tucker’s life was played and during emotional addresses to the court by the mother and sister of Angel-Esparza, who was stabbed to death on the Kawana Springs Elementary School campus in Santa Rosa on Jan. 8, 2011. Tucker, 24, who had performed with singer Lauryn Hill, was the victim of mistaken identity, prosecutors said. He was killed on Jan. 12, 2010 while driving his Nissan west on Interstate Highway 80 near the Carquinez Bridge on his way to band practice in the East Bay. Vega and three other alleged Sureno gang members drove to Vallejo to find a member of a rival sect within the gang who lived next door to Tucker, prosecutors said during the trial. According to prosecutors, Vega and Javier Carreon-Lopez, 22, got into a Honda and pursued Tucker, who they thought was the rival gang member. Carreon-Lopez pulled alongside Tucker’s Nissan and Vega shot Tucker in the head, prosecutors said.
Carreon-Lopez pleaded no contest to being a member of a street gang and was sentenced to two years in prison. A third suspect, Hector Barragan, 30, pleaded no contest to being an accessory and was sentenced three years’ probation. Christopher Mancinas, 31, the fourth suspect, was acquitted of murder but was convicted of being a member of a criminal street gang and has not yet been sentenced. He faces a separate trial on weapon charges. Vega’s sentencing this morning was interrupted shortly after it began when Vega gave his attorney Kathleen Hernandez a handwritten motion claiming that a medical condition had affected her representation. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana Simonds told Vega that Hernandez did not have a medical condition until after the trial ended, but she closed the courtroom and held a brief hearing on the motion before denying it and resuming the sentencing. Tucker’s mother Shirley said she believes Vega’s sentence is “just.” The family did not address the court during the sentencing.
Angel-Esparza’s sister Maria Esparza said Vega’s 12-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter won’t bring her brother back. She said she knows prosecutors “tried hard to have justice served for my brother.” Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner told the judge the two families suffered “incalculable harm and inconsolable grief,” and he asked Simonds to impose consecutive sentences for the slayings because they were separate acts against separate victims in different locations. He said Vega will serve 12 years for Angel-Esparza’s manslaughter then 25 years to life and life without parole for Tucker’s slaying.
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