Two of the three suspects in the shooting death of a San Diego County sheriff's deputy trainee are members of a youth gang that authorities hold responsible for a reign of violence and property crime in the San Diego area.
Ronnie Davis Williams, 20--one of the defendants jailed on suspicion of homicide and robbery in the killing Monday of Kelly A. Bazer--was placed on probation Friday after earlier serving 236 days in jail for a gang-related assault last January.
Williams and co-defendant Jessie Lee Stuart, 19, are members of the Neighborhood Crips, one of the city's two loosely organized black youth gangs, according to Carlos Armour, a deputy district attorney specializing in gang prosecutions.
The third suspect arrested Tuesday after an all-night search, Prentice Byrd, 19, is not known to be a gang member, Armour said Wednesday. Byrd, too, was in court only last week. He pleaded guilty and was fined on misdemeanor charges of possessing an alcoholic beverage and fighting in public, according to San Diego Municipal Court records.
Bazer, a 28-year-old mother of two, was shot once in the back Monday as she ran from two assailants who police say robbed a Spring Valley supermarket and were attempting to steal her car for their getaway. Sheriff's Department officials said it was unlikely that the killers recognized her as a law enforcement officer.
According to Armour, prosecutors believe that Stuart and Williams robbed the supermarket and confronted Bazer nearby, and that Stuart fired the shot that killed her. Byrd, they believe, drove the pickup truck that the assailants used for their getaway after abandoning Bazer's car, he said.
The Neighborhood Crips is the more violent of the two black gangs known to San Diego authorities; its members have been implicated in crimes ranging from robberies to homicides, Armour said.
Unlike Latino gangs--which organize to protect a turf--the Crips and another black gang, Piru, focus their criminal efforts on making money for their members' use, he said. Members wear colors, communicate with hand signals, back each other in gang fights and generally refuse to testify against each other, Armour said.
Williams had been free on his own recognizance since September, court records show, and had not been involved in further criminal activity before he was placed on probation Friday by Municipal Judge H. Ronald Domnitz.
"In hindsight you can always say, 'I should have asked for state prison' or 'The judge should have given him state prison,' but you can say that about every single person," said Armour, who was the prosecutor at Williams' probation hearing. The months Williams spent in County Jail were "more than what 90% of people get," he added.