On Thursday, November 7, 2013, a three week murder trial ended with the conviction of a member of a criminal street gang, “Varrio Mountain View,” responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Alejando “Alex” Fernandez in 2004.
On September 24, 2004 at approximately 10:30 p.m., Fernandez was with his friends on the 500 block of S. Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View when five subjects pulled up in a red Lexus. As Fernandez approached the car, a passenger in the vehicle shot Fernandez in the chest. Fernandez was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The 26-year-old defendant, Giovanni Duarte, was convicted of second degree murder with a gang enhancement for his role as the shooter. In a separate and previous criminal proceeding, co-defendant, 25-year-old Anthony Figueroa, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for his role as the driver of the red Lexus.
During the trial, testimony and evidence provided by Mountain View Police Department and FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force demonstrated that the Norteno gang-related members drove to the S. Rengtorff Avenue neighborhood to look for Sureno gang members for the sole purpose of initiating a confrontation. They then came across a Sureno gang-related member.
The jury deliberated a day before returning with the verdict finding Giovanni Duarte guilty of second degree murder with a gang enhancement. Duarte faces a sentence of 40 years to life for the murder of Fernandez with a firearm. Sentencing is not expected to take place until January 2014.
Deputy District Attorney Anne Seery, who prosecuted the case, stated that the successful trial of the “cold case” was a product of an outstanding, intensive and multi-year investigation by the Safe Streets Task Force, an FBI sponsored unit that combats violent street crime and gang and trafficking offenses.
“The FBI stands by our law enforcement partners at the Mountain View Police Department as well as our partners on the Safe Streets Task Force in closing this cold case,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the San Francisco Field Office. “No matter the age of a case, the FBI will continue to provide manpower and assets until justice is served.”
The Safe Streets and Gang Unit is an FBI sponsored task force that combats violent street crime as well as gang and drug trafficking offenses. The FBI task force consisted of law enforcement personnel from Mountain View Police Department, FBI San Jose Office and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety at the time of the incident.
“I hope the Fernandez Family can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Giovanni Duarte was held accountable and convicted for the murder of their loved one, who was tragically killed more than nine years ago,” said MVPD Chief Scott Vermeer. “The complex investigation and prosecution was a group effort that included the FBI’s San Francisco Office, the Santa Clara County DA’s Office and our team here in Mountain View. I am extremely proud of the all the law enforcement professionals who were committed to ensuring justice for Alex and for working to prevent gang-related violence in Mountain View.”
“We are very pleased with the verdict in this case,” said Sgt. Dan Vicencio who represented Mountain View Police Department at the task force at the time of the investigation. “Since the murder in 2004 until yesterday’s conviction, we spent a great deal of time preparing for the trial. We worked closely with the FBI and DA’s office in order to ensure a successful prosecution; and we achieved our goal.”
For information on the cold case, please contact Mountain View Police Department Public Information Officer Shino Tanaka at 650-903-6360, 650-740-6411, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Link: http://www.mountainview.gov/city_hall/police/
For information on the Safe Streets Task Force, please contact Public Affairs Specialist Peter Lee of the FBI San Francisco Office at 415-553-7590. Link: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/gangs/violent-gangs-task-forces
For information on the prosecution, please contact Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney PIO Sean Webby at 408-792-2997. Link: http://www.sccgov.org/sites/da/Pages/DA-office-site-home-page.aspx