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May 1, 2015San Francisco , CAUnited StatesTransnational Gangs

Bay Area gang member gets life term for murder and attempted slaying of ICE special agents

SAN FRANCISCO – A Bay Area gang member who opened fire on special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) during the execution of a search warrant three years ago was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Victor Flores, 23, of Petaluma, was convicted last July following a three-month trial before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. The trial and sentence are the culmination of a lengthy investigation initiated by the South San Francisco and Daly City Police Departments more than four years ago. In 2011, HSI joined the probe. Subsequently, the FBI investigated the attempted murder of the HSI agents.  In all, more than 19 defendants were charged and convicted in crimes related to the 500 Block/C Street Gang activity.

According to the evidence presented during the trial, on the night of Dec. 22, 2010, Flores, along with fellow 500 Block/C Street gang member Joseph Ortiz, shot at seven individuals they believed were members of a rival gang as the victims walked down Eighth Lane in South San Francisco. Gonzalo Avalos, Omar Cortez, and Hector Flores were killed, while three other individuals were wounded. Two years later, on May 3, 2012, when special agents with HSI’s Los Angeles Special Response Team tried to arrest Flores at his home, he fired on them with an AK-47-style assault rifle, emptying two full magazines of ammunition and wounding three of the officers before eventually surrendering to law enforcement.

The jury convicted Flores of the racketeering murders of Avalos, Cortez, and Flores and the attempted murders of the other four victims; the attempted murders of three federal agents; using a firearm in the commission of those crimes; conspiring to conduct the affairs of the 500 Block/C Street Gang through a pattern of racketeering; conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering; and conspiring to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.

“Nothing can erase the pain and sorrow caused by Flores’ vicious, unrepentant, criminal behavior," U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said. “I hope that the life sentence imposed against him brings some measure of relief to Flores’ victims and their families, and that they will at least feel a sense of justice. I am extraordinarily proud of the professionalism and bravery demonstrated by the men and women of law enforcement in this case. They are true heroes and we are especially thankful for their service and commitment to the pursuit of justice."

“Today’s sentence assures that no one else will risk being killed or maimed by an individual who has shown no regard for our laws or human life," said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “As we said when this defendant was arrested, ‘justice is patient and justice is resolute.’ Well today, justice was served. We owe a profound debt of gratitude to the prosecutors in this case, the FBI, and the investigators with the police departments in South San Francisco and Daly City, all of whom worked tirelessly in collaboration with HSI to bring this outcome about."

“The South San Francisco Police Department is very pleased with today’s sentencing of Victor Flores," said Chief of Police Jeff Azzoparti. “Our ultimate goal as a police department is to provide a safe community for our residents to live in. Flores is an extremely violent criminal and today’s sentence removes Flores from our streets and brings us closer to a safer community. Our thoughts are with the victim’s families, and while today’s sentence will not bring back their loved ones, hopefully it helps bring closure to the case knowing justice has been served. The South San Francisco Police Department is determined to rid our community of violent gang members and we will continue to utilize any and all resources available to us to meet that end. We would like to thank the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Attorney’s Office for their steadfast contributions in this case, which ultimately brought it to a successful resolution."

“The conviction of Victor Flores for murder, and for his attempted murder of three Department of Homeland Security agents represents a significant victory for the rule of law and for the agents and officers who put their lives on the line every day to enforce those laws," said David J. Johnson, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco Field Office. “The severity of the sentencing demonstrates that our court system will not tolerate violent behavior towards law enforcement agents and those who engage daily in the pursuit of justice."

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Acadia L. Senese, Stephen Meyer, and Benjamin Tolkoff are prosecuting this case, aided by paralegal Kevin Costello and legal technician Daniel Charlier-Smith. 

Updated: 05/05/2015