Gang Members Shot Men for Wearing Red, Cops Say

Demian Bulwa, Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2009

Two suspected members of the MS-13 gang have been arrested and a third is being sought in the Daly City slaying of a 21-year-old college student who was shot because his friends were wearing red–a color claimed by a rival gang–police said Thursday.

One of Moises Frias Jr.’s companions was wearing a red sweater, and another a red-and-white San Francisco 49ers cap, when their car was riddled with bullets near the Daly City BART Station on Feb. 19. Frias died before he could reach the hospital, and two of the other three young men in the car were wounded.

None of the victims had anything to do with gangs, investigators said.

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Daly City police Detective Gregg Oglesby noted that Frias’ shooting was strikingly similar to the June 2008 killing of a San Francisco father, Tony Bologna, and his two sons in the Excelsior neighborhood. Prosecutors say another member of MS-13–a subset of the Sureño gang, which claims the color blue–opened fire after mistaking one of the sons for a member of the rival Norteños, who claim red.

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Around the Bay Area, authorities say several such cases of mistaken gang affiliation in recent years have prompted killings, assaults and robberies. Many young Latino men say they are routinely “checked,” or asked whether they are Norteño or Sureño.

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In the Daly City case, Danilo Velasquez, 28, was arrested early Wednesday in San Francisco. Luis Herrera, 18, was already at San Francisco County Jail on suspicion of auto theft and possession of a gun that was later determined to have been used to kill Frias, police said. Both have been charged with murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait, three counts of attempted murder and enhancements for participating in a criminal street gang and weapons possession.

A third alleged gang member, Jaime Balam, 20, was deported to his native Mexico eight days after the shooting–but before he was identified as a suspect–and is still being sought. Police said Balam, who had been deported once before, was picked up by federal immigration agents in San Francisco on Feb. 24.

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