CARLSBAD — A 27-year-old man will have to stand trial for a threat he made to the sister of a gang member accidentally killed during a melee in a Carlsbad park, a Superior Court judge ruled Aug. 10.
Jose Angel Barraza is charged with the gang intimidation of a witness relating to a text message he sent Juan Carlos Balderas’ sister following the April 4 shooting of the 21-year-old man near Pine Park at Chestnut Avenue and Madison Street in Carlsbad.
Deputy District Attorney Geoff Allard outside the courtroom relayed what the text message said. The text message used profane terms to tell the sister to keep her mouth shut.
Defense attorney Dan Burland told the judge Barraza wrote the text to tell the victim’s sister to stop accusing him of her brother’s death, not to try to dissuade her from talking to the police.
Barraza and Balderas were members of the same Encinitas criminal street gang, police said.
If convicted, Barraza faces seven years to life in prison, Allard said outside the courtroom.
Balderas died from two shotgun wounds, which police believe were inflicted accidentally by two of his fellow gang members, Javier Antonio Lopez, 20; and Victor Virjilio Lopez, 21, after a fight broke out with a rival gang near the park.
Javier Lopez and Victor Lopez are each charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit murder in conjunction with a criminal street gang. Additionally, Javier Lopez is also charged with murder and attempted murder.
According to witness testimony at the preliminary hearing, Barraza was also at the park that evening; however, he has not been charged with Balderas’ death.
Further, Barraza had also been charged with one count of a felon in possession of a firearm after police found a picture of the murder weapon on his cell phone; however, Judge Richard Cline ruled the image alone wasn’t enough evidence to show Barraza had actually possessed the gun.
Barraza was released from prison in 2007 after serving two years in connection with a vehicle theft conviction.
Supporters of Barraza maintain he has been working hard since his prison release to change his life and put his days as a gang member behind him.
In February, Javier and Victor Lopez’s cousin suffered nonlife-threatening injuries after being shot outside a house party in the 2300 block of Pio Pico Drive in Carlsbad. Investigators believe Balderas, Javier Lopez and Victor Lopez went to Carlsbad on April 4 looking to shoot and kill any Carlsbad gang members as retaliation for that shooting.
Javier and Victor Lopez, who remain in custody on $5 million bail, have a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 15.
Barraza remains in jail on a no bail hold. His next scheduled court appearance is Sept. 15.