A 23-year-old man was convicted Thursday of the gang-related fatal stabbing of another man in what this infernal rag had previously deemed the best taqueria in the county.
Pass the Tapatia. Actually, pass Taqueria Tapatia and you'll be passing the Santa Ana restaurant where Victor Praxedis fatally stabbed 28-year-old Juan Diaz Pacheco during a 3 a.m. brawl on April 16, 2011.
Two years later, jurors deliberated for about three hours before finding fellow Santa Anan Praxedis guilty of murder with special circumstances of a gang-related killing, as well as finding true sentencing enhancements for using a dangerous a deadly weapon and gang activity.
He could get life without parole at his scheduled Jan. 10 sentencing, according to Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen.
Jurors had the option of finding Praxedis guilty of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, Petersen told City News Service.
Pacheco was dining with two others in the taqueria at 202 S. Bristol St., where six men approached their table and asked that old gang chestnut, "Where are you from?" But the answer they received from the table obviously was not what they wanted to hear: "We're not from anywhere and we don't gang bang."
That led to the melee that had Pacheco being stabbed multiple times in the chest.
Witnesses testified in court that one of the six men hollered out the gang's name in the restaurant and from the car they fled in, and alleged getaway driver Kevin Garcia, 21, of Santa Ana, was seen making a gang sign, according to Petersen.
But Ken Norelli of the Alternate Defender's Office claimed his client Praxedis did not see anyone make a gang sign nor did he yell one.
Norelli mounted an "imperfect self-defense" defense, arguing the stabbing was done in the heat of the moment.
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"His decision to pull out that knife was a personal decision, and it was not a well-thought out one, but it wasn't planned, or thought about or ordered," Norelli had said in his opening statement, City News Service reported. Praxedis "didn't want to kill anyone. It was a violent and evolving incident."
It's also an incident evolving into more of the court's time. Garcia, Anthony Morales Hernandez, Eduardo Felipe Ortega and Ulises Mejia await trial, while remaining suspect Christopher Espino of San Bernardino is still at-large.