Possible Gang Link Probed in Arrest of Nuñez’s Son

Tony Perry and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2008

Esteban Nuñez, the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, and three other men who were arrested in the fatal stabbing of a college student in San Diego fit the definition of a criminal street gang, police said in search warrants released Wednesday.

Nuñez and his companions identified themselves as members of The Hazard Crew or THC, according to the documents. THC is an abbreviation for the active chemical ingredient in marijuana. Nuñez, 19, has a biohazard symbol on his right arm, and the other defendants have similar tattoos, police said.

Hours before the Oct. 4 killing, Nuñez and another defendant talked about how they had learned to gang up on victims and take turns punching them, a woman told police.

The four men are accused of murder in the death of 22-year-old Luis Dos Santos, a Mesa College student, after a night of drinking at a party near San Diego State University.

San Diego Police Capt. Jim Collins said the defendants, all from the Sacramento area, did not know Santos but taunted him and four friends, then attacked them with knives.

The fatal fight allegedly took only 30 seconds. Santos died of a single stab wound to the heart, collapsing in front of the campus gym. Nuñez told his friends that, if they were charged, his father could get them off on a self-defense argument, according to court documents.

The picture of Nuñez that police presented Wednesday contrasts sharply with how others who know the Sacramento City College business student describe him.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a longtime friend of the Nuñez family, said: “I’ve known him since he was a little boy. He’s a great kid, a good boy.”

Vanessa Huber of Upland, another close family friend, echoed the mayor’s comments: “He’s a good kid. I’ve never heard him raise his voice about anything. I’m so shocked. I don’t know what to think.”

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On Sunday, Nuñez’s father finished the last of his three terms in the Assembly, representing a district that extends from Boyle Heights to downtown Los Angeles. He also served four years as speaker, pushing through landmark legislation on environmental and labor issues. After a spike in gang violence in Los Angeles, he wrote a bill last year that created a state office to oversee efforts to reduce gang violence.

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Esteban Nuñez graduated from Rio Americano High School near Sacramento in 2007, said a school spokesman. He also went to Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento and Damien High School in LaVerne, his MySpace profile indicates.

The athletic director at Christian Brothers, Jill Bennett, recalled that Nuñez and his sister were at the private school for only a short time and that he was a “fairly quiet” student.

On his MySpace page, Nuñez listed his heroes as farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez and rapper Tupac Shakur. His favorite movies include “Scarface” and “Gang Related.” Much of the material was removed from the site Wednesday.

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