Slain Garner couple were innocent victims in an escalating gang war

Jose and Maria Mendoza were caught in middle of gang war

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2013 

— Sheriff’s investigators recovered more than 40 spent shell casings and bullet fragments from the home of a slain Garner couple who were caught in the middle of an escalating war between two rival gangs in southwestern Wake County.

Jose and Maria Mendoza were the unintended victims of a bloodbath on Jan. 5 when two teen members of the Sur 13 gang unleashed a torrent of gunfire that turned their townhome at 708 Colonial Drive into a shooting gallery, according to search warrants made public Wednesday. The couple’s 3-year-old child was unharmed in the shooting. An older child, a 12-year-old, was not at home at the time.

Isrrael Vasquez, 16, of 165 Montiseno Drive south of Garner, and Vasquez’s 15-year-old nephew, who was processed as a juvenile, are charged with first degree murder, felony conspiracy, first-degree burglary and possession of stolen property. Vasquez, also was charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said there was no indication that the teens knew the couple.

The Mendozas were the unintended victims of a shooting that targeted a member of the VDM gang, an acronym for Very Dangerous Mexicans, investigator E.A. Welch stated in the search warrant. The intended target was David Gonzales, a member of VDM who once lived at the Mendoza’s address with Kassandra Martinez.

Also, ballistics tests matched distinctive markings found on .45-caliber shell casings recovered from the Jan. 5 slaying with casings from a Dec. 4 shooting in which Vasquez and the same juvenile are also charged.

In that shooting, Juan Olvera Hernandez was wounded in the ankle when the rival gangs encountered each other on Meadowbrook Drive near E. Woodcrest Road. The witnesses told deputies that Gonzalez was also an intended target in that incident.

Pablo Daniel Reyes and his brother, Moises Reyes, were also charged in the shooting. Vasquez is charged as a juvenile in the Dec. 4 shooting because he did not turn 16 until Jan. 4, one day before the Mendoza murders, authorities reported.

One day after the Mendoza murders, Gonzalez contacted the sheriff’s office to say he felt his life was in danger, because of an altercation with Pablo Daniel Reyes, also known as “Trigger,” Welch stated.

On Jan 15, Wake deputy T.S. Barefoot charged Reyes’s girlfriend, Itzamar Estrada, 18, with possession of an assault rifle that may have been used in the Mendoza murders.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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