SANTA ANA — A Santa Ana man was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday for shooting two teen-age bicyclists in an unprovoked attack that ended a nighttime hunt for rival gang members. One of the victims was 13.
Mario (Moscow) Tirado, who was 18 when the shootings occurred near 1st and Lacy streets in Santa Ana on Oct. 30, 1987, now faces a penalty hearing in which jurors will decide whether he will die in the gas chamber or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey declared a mistrial on murder charges for Patrick (Shadow) McCauley, now 20, of Santa Ana, the driver of the stolen car used in the killings. One juror apparently held out for a lesser conviction. Prosecutors had not sought the death penalty for McCauley.
The two men were accused of killing Enrique Arceo, 13, and Jesus Perez, 17, who were on their way home from a carnival held on the grounds of a local church. The two victims were associated with the Lopers street gang.
Tirado's lawyers are expected to make his young age a key element in their plea against a death verdict. But Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles J. Middleton said the attack was so coldblooded that the nature of the crime should override that consideration.
Testimony from acquaintences of Tirado and McCauley indicated that they simply went hunting for someone to shoot.
"There was just no reason for these shootings to occur," Middleton said. "This was a totally unprovoked attack on two innocent people."
If Tirado is sentenced to death, he would be the second youngest person ever sent to Death Row from Orange County.
Tirado was a member of the Southside gang and McCauley was from the Eastside gang, which are on friendly terms. Both are enemies of the Lopers, Middleton said.
A few days before the shootings, members of the Lopers and Southside gangs had a run-in.
Then, on the day of the shootings, McCauley chased an enemy gang member with a golf club from the trunk of the stolen car he was driving.
Later that night, he and two others picked up Tirado. One of the group, Arturo Arreola, testified that Tirado and McCauley discussed "going after some Lopers."
With McCauley behind the wheel and Tirado in the front seat with a semiautomatic, Mini-14 assault rifle, they first shot at two people near Cedar and Euclid streets in Santa Ana, Arreola testified. One person was slightly wounded as he dived for cover and the second was unhurt.
A few minutes later, the group headed toward 1st and Lacy streets.
Arreola testified that they passed by a group of people on bicycles whom they identified as Lopers. Tirado ordered McCauley to turn the car around. As they passed by the group the second time, Tirado opened fire.
The police were able to trace the car's occupants because one of the bicyclists recognized McCauley.
Arreola agreed to plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and was placed on probation. The other passenger, Jerry (Cyclone) Rivera, 22, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and is now serving a six-year sentence.
At the joint trial of Tirado and McCauley, Tirado's lawyers did not deny their client was the gunman. But they argued that prosecutors failed to prove an intent to kill, a condition for first-degree murder. Tirado did not testify.
McCauley testified that he was the driver and Tirado the gunman but denied knowing that any shots were going to be fired. He said that guns were only in the vehicle for protection.
The jurors found both defendants guilty of four counts of attempted murder in connection with the incidents earlier that night. McCauley was also found guilty of assault in the golf club incident and of receiving stolen property for driving the stolen car.
Dickey told jurors that he would set a date for the penalty hearing today. Middleton said his penalty-phase evidence against Tirado may not take more than two days, but it could be highly damaging: Less than a month before the double murders, prosecutors allege, Tirado was responsible for another gang-revenge incident in which he fired the same rifle at two other people.
Middleton would not say yet what he will do about retrying McCauley on the murder counts, but he pointed out that 11 jurors wanted a first-degree murder verdict.
The jurors did not announce that in court, but a message they sent from the jury room indicated that just one juror was deadlocking the murder verdicts.