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Man Guilty of Gang Counselor's Murder : Courts: Jose Gilbert Gonzalez, 30, is convicted of killing Ana Lizarraga, a popular intervention worker who had been involved in the film 'American Me.'

May 11, 1993|ANDREA FORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A jury Monday found a 30-year-old alleged member of an Eastside gang guilty of lying in wait for a popular gang-intervention worker and shooting her to death in Boyle Heights last year.

Jose Gilbert Gonzalez sat staring at the defense table as the Los Angeles Superior Court jury pronounced him guilty of first-degree murder, ambushing and gun charges in the May 13, 1992, slaying of Ana Lizarraga, 49, in the driveway of her Lancaster Avenue home.

Lizarraga was a counselor with Community Youth Gang Services, the largest agency of its kind in the county, and had been a consultant on "American Me," the Edward James Olmos movie about Mexican prison gangs.

She was shot to death execution-style by two ski-masked gunmen in a crime that rocked her close-knit community. Gonzalez was arrested a short time later. The other suspect has not been caught.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank J. Johnson, who prosecuted Gonzalez, acknowledged after the verdict Monday that rumors implicating the Mexican Mafia, a powerful prison gang, in Lizarraga's death have been rife. But he said no evidence involving the group was presented during Gonzalez's four-day trial.

The rumors that Lizarraga was killed because of her connection to the gang movie remain under investigation, Johnson said.

"The Mexican Mafia angle is something we are looking into," he said, adding that Lizarraga's killing was planned and was "no coincidence."

But making headway on that front has been difficult, he said, because those who can provide information are from "a very tight-knit culture. It's tough to get people to talk about these things."

In addition to acting as a technical adviser on "American Me," Lizarraga had a small part in it. The film chronicles the violent rise of the Mexican Mafia and other prison gangs. It sought to strip away glorified illusions about street gangs and prison.

The defendant's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Patrick Thomason, declined to comment on the case.

Gonzalez could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the ambush murder, five years on the gun charge and five years on a charge of violating probation. Sentencing is scheduled June 7.

Johnson said Gonzalez is a member of the Hazard Street Gang, which has operated for years in the Ramona Gardens housing project, where Lizarraga grew up and often worked. Gonzalez had been paroled from Folsom prison less than a month before the shooting. He earlier was convicted of assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, Los Angeles Police Detective John Spreitzer said.

While on parole on that charge, he was arrested again in a weapons-possession case, Spreitzer said. Gonzalez was on parole in that matter when Lizarraga was killed, the detective said.

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