General Crime

Rolando Castellanos Gets 40 Years To Life For Killing Truck Thief In Oakland

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An Oakland man was sentenced today to 40 years to life in state prison for fatally shooting a man who stole his brother’s truck two years ago.

Rolando Castellanos, 31, was convicted in December of second-degree murder for the shooting death of 30-year-old Hector Ramirez in the 9700 block of C Street, near Elmhurst Park, in East Oakland at about 12:10 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2012.

Prosecutor Amanda Chavez said Ramirez had stolen a truck that belonged to Castellanos’ brother, Mario Castellanos, outside the home that they shared. The brothers were alerted to the truck theft while they were inside.

Castellanos loaded his .22-gauge rifle and his brother armed himself with a shotgun and both men hopped into the back of a car driven by their teenage neighbor to look for Ramirez and the truck, Chavez said.

After the Castellanos brothers and the teen had driven a few blocks, the brothers spotted the truck and stopped it by cutting it off, she said.

Castellanos and his brother got out of the car with their weapons and pulled Ramirez out of the truck, according to Chavez.

Ramirez began running away from them but the Castellanos brothers struck him with two shots each and he died from four gunshot wounds, she said.

“They shot him in the back execution-style and left him to die,” Chavez said.

Rolando Castellanos testified during his trial that shot Ramirez in defense of himself and in defense of his brother. But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson said today that he didn’t think Castellanos’ testimony was credible, partly because he appeared to go “overboard” not to say anything that would incriminate his brother, who was never arrested for the shooting and is still at large.

Rolefson said Castellanos testified that he didn’t see what his brother did during the incident but another witness testified that the brother, Mario Castellanos, told him afterward that he “finished the guy (Ramirez) off with a shot to the chest.”

Rolando Castellanos’ attorney, Ed Bell, asked for a new trial today on several grounds, including a declaration by his investigator that one of the jurors in the case told the investigator several weeks after the trial that she didn’t want to talk about the case anymore because “he (Castellanos) is just a Mexican who got what he deserved.”

Bell said the juror’s remark is evidence of her “personal animus to Mexicans” and “a racial bias that perhaps affected her deliberations.”

But Rolefson said he thinks the juror’s comment was “not reflective of her attitude” during deliberations because it appears to him that her words were “in apparent frustration” with the investigator’s effort to get her to sign a declaration.

“She was not in a good mood, felt bothered by the inquiry and was really bugged by this investigator,” Rolefson said.

Bell also argued that another juror in the case had been inattentive during deliberations because he put on headphones and worked on a laptop computer for about 15 minutes.

Rolefson said it appears that the juror didn’t comply with instructions not to use computers during deliberations but there wasn’t any misconduct because there’s no proof the juror used his laptop to look up information about the case.

Rolefson denied Bell’s motion for a new trial for Castellanos, saying there was substantial credible evidence for the jury to convict him of second-degree murder.

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