Joseph Felix Diaz could have reasonably argued he acted in self defense when he shot rival gang member Faustino Armenta in the shoulder to fend off a beer-bottle attack.
But such a defense went out the window when the 27-year-old chased Armenta for 200 feet and pumped two more bullets into the man's back.
Armenta died a couple hours later at a local hospital.
Diaz is now looking at the possibility of 75 years to life in prison.
After two hours of deliberation, a jury found Diaz guilty of
first-degree murder plus use of a weapon for the death of Armento, but
the defendant was acquitted on charges of street terrorism and the
circumstance of committing murder for the benefit of his gang.
would normally be looking at 50 years–25 years doubled for murder and
use of a gun–but Judge Daniel McNerney could tag
on another 25 years at the Jan. 13 sentencing hearing because Diaz's
conviction for a prior
assault on a police officer could be deemed a previous violent felony.
Diaz was riding his bike along South Oak Street in Santa Ana around 5:15
p.m. on Oct. 4, 2010, when Armenta and other gang members hurled beer
bottles, forcing an outnumbered Diaz to seek cover behind parked cars.
As the gang
members advanced, Diaz pulled out his firearm and fired the shot that hit Armenta in the
shoulder. That led to the chase and violent outcome that could have Diaz
behind bars for the rest of his life.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.