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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Taggers get 21 years for deadly confrontation

March 17, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

Two gang members were sentenced to 21 years in state prison Monday after pleading no contest to the 2006 slaying of a Valinda man who tried to stop them from tagging.

Anthony Alex Castillo and Robert Alex Lopez, both 19, each pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter as part of street-gang activity. Both men were not believed to have carried out the shooting. A third suspect died while the case was being investigated.

The 2006 killing of Robert Whitehead was one in a series of high-profile shootings involving tagging. Whitehead was killed after challenging young gang members he caught crossing out another gang's graffiti on a neighbor's garage.

The next year, in a separate incident, Pico Rivera grandmother Maria Hicks was gunned down after she honked her car horn, flashed her car lights and followed a tagger who had defaced a wall.

In the Whitehead case, Castillo was arrested in December 2007. Lopez was arrested two months later. Both were charged with murder and special allegations that the crimes took place using a gun and in furtherance of gang activity.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators also found evidence that led them to charge six suspects in an unrelated conspiracy to commit a murder-for-hire plot involving the Mexican Mafia, a case that is now being tried in a downtown criminal courtroom.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

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