Mistrial declared in taco shop shooting trial

OCEANSIDE — A San Diego Superior Court judge on Oct. 29 declared a mistrial in a case revolving around the shooting of a taco shop employee during a retaliatory gang hit due to jury misconduct, a prosecutor said. After approximately two days of jury deliberation to determine the fate of Suitonu Tuua, 21, Judge Joel Pressman declared a mistrial after being informed one juror violated the court’s instruction by researching information about the defendant and then sharing it during deliberations. “One juror looked up information on the Internet about the defendant and that information was shared in the jury room with three other jurors causing a mistrial,” Deputy District Attorney David Williams, of the gang prosecution unit, said. A status conference was set for Nov. 9 at which time a trial date may be set. Prosecutors allege Tuua, of Oceanside, shot 19-year-old Alejandro Zunniga point blank with a six-shot .357 revolver, which the defendant unloaded on the victim, around 3 a.m. Jan. 31 when Zunniga responded to a knock on the Deiberto’s drive-thru window in the 3300 block of Mission Avenue. Williams said Tuua visited the drive-thru window a couple of times in the hour before the shooting to ensure Zunniga was working. Tuua is charged with a single count of attempted murder. Enhancements of gang, weapons and great bodily injury allegations are also attached to the charge. Zunniga suffered gunshot wounds to his face, torso and buttocks during the premeditated attack, Williams said. Police believe the shooting was a retaliatory attack because Tuua believed Zunniga had ties to a rival street gang that shot him 10 months earlier. Zunniga is not affiliated with a criminal street gang, Williams told jurors in his closing argument. Further, he said Zunniga positively identified Tuua in court and from an Oceanside High School yearbook. Bullets matching the same caliber firearm used in the shooting were found at Tuua’s Fireside Street residence, which is located less than a mile from the taco shop, according to court testimony. However, defense attorney Ronald Le Mieux told jurors he believes Zunniga has misidentified his client. Le Mieux said Tuua did order food from Zunniga at the taco shop approximately 30 minutes before the shooting, but never returned to assassinate him. He said Tuua was wearing different clothing than the shooter as described by Zunniga and another witness and weighed much more than witnesses’ estimations. If convicted of attempted murder, Tuua could face up to life in prison. He currently remains free on $750,000 bail. Tuua’s case is the second North County attempted murder case this year to have been ruled a mistrial due to jury misconduct. In June, Pressman concluded there was incidental misconduct by the jury foreman in connection with Octavian Crishan’s murder and attempted murder conviction. Crishan, 70, is charged with killing his long-time friend and shooting another roommate. A new trial date in that case is pending.

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