Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
October 16, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
LOS ANGELES GANG MEMBER RE-SENTENCED TO 186 YEARS IN PRISON FOR CONSPIRACY, KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM, AND ATTEMPTED MURDER OF POLICE OFFICERS WHEN HE WAS 14 YEARS OLD
*Defendant’s 2003 sentence of life in prison without parole was vacated by the Court of Appeal of California
SANTA ANA – A Los Angeles criminal street gang member was re-sentenced today to five life terms in state prison, or a minimum of 186 years and eight months to life, for conspiring and kidnapping a man for ransom in 2001 and shooting at and attempting to murder four police officers while trying to flee. Antonio De Jesus Nuñez, 23, Los Angeles, was 14 years old at the time of the crime. The defendant was tried, convicted and sentenced as an adult in 2003 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for this crime. The Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three (Court of Appeal) opined in April 2009 that the sentence should be vacated and Nuñez should be resentenced, concluding that life in prison without the possibility of parole was cruel and unusual for a 14-year-old defendant.
Co-defendant Juan Diego Perez, 35, Los Angeles, was also convicted in 2003 for this crime and is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Circumstances of the Crime
On April 24, 2001, Los Angeles criminal street gang members Nuñez, then-14, and Perez, then-27, drove to Santa Ana with the intention of kidnapping for ransom a man known to smuggle illegal immigrants. The defendants, with the help of unknown gang member accomplices, kidnapped victim John Doe at gunpoint after shooting at the victim’s brother’s car using a semi-automatic firearm. The defendants then called the victim’s brother and demanded $100,000 and one kilogram of cocaine as ransom in exchange for releasing John Doe. The defendants threatened to kill the victim if his brother contacted the police. John Doe’s brother contacted the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), who instructed him to set up the exchange. SAPD arranged to send undercover police officers in order to safely arrest the defendants.
At approximately 7:00 p.m., Perez and Nuñez were waiting at the agreed upon exchange location in a Long Beach parking lot with the victim. The defendants received information from unknown accomplices in another car, which was parked nearby as a look-out, that undercover police officers appeared to be in the area. The defendants fled the parking lot, but upon noticing an undercover police van behind them, Nuñez began shooting a semi-automatic firearm over the head of the victim at the police officers. The van was shot multiple times, but the officers inside were uninjured.
Perez drove at a high rate of speed on the freeway and through residential areas, leading police on a pursuit. A marked Santa Ana Police car took the lead in pursing the defendants with lights and sirens. Nuñez again aimed the semi-automatic firearm at the officers and shot at the patrol car several times. One bullet struck inside the car less than four inches from the head of one of the police officers, but the officers inside were uninju