DOWNTOWN — Four suspected gang members charged with the beating death of a Santa Monica man will stand trial after a Superior Court judge last week found there was enough evidence to move forward with the case.
Assisted by court-approved wire taps, Santa Monica police officers in October of last year arrested Sammy Murphy, 50; Gwindon Love Murphy, 65; Jason Anthony Hurtado, 26; and Jason Eddie Coleman, 27; all of Santa Monica, for the 2008 murder of Preston Brumfield, a resident who was beaten and left for dead on a busy street in the Pico Neighborhood.
The investigation was dubbed “Operation Tombstone,” and led to the arrest of six other suspected gang members for selling rock cocaine within the city.
Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin said the four defendants charged with murder and conspiracy with a gang enhancement were held to answer on Thursday and are scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 22, at which time they are expected to enter pleas of not guilty.
The Murphy brothers have also been charged with solicitation.
Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached for comment. One of Coleman’s relatives said he is innocent and the target of police harassment.
The gang enhancement increases the amount of time a convict has to spend in prison, Lin said. If found guilt of murder and sentenced to life, the enhancement guarantees a minimum of 15 years before a convict can be eligible for parole. In a general felony it can add three, four or 10 years to a sentence depending on the charges, Lin added.
Brumfield was found during the late night hours of Sunday, May 11, 2008 severely beaten and laying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk in front of 1948 20th Street. He had a previous head injury which required him to have a metal plate installed in his skull, police said.
Brumfield was transported to Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center where he died four days later. Brumfield, 49, had been a recognizable street figure in the Pico Neighborhood, SMPD Chief Tim Jackman said, and residents in the area were “outraged” over his murder.
Detectives said Brumfield was beaten because he allegedly insulted one of the suspects, an alleged member of the Graveyard Crips.
Detectives were forced to use wiretaps because of the nature of the investigation. It was difficult to infiltrate the gang because of its small size — around 20 active members — and its level of intimidation within the community, Jackman said.
Detectives turned to the D.A.’s Office and the California Department of Justice for assistance in securing the phone taps, which were approved in late 2008. While listening for any information on the Brumfield murder, detectives heard suspects discussing drug deals.
The investigation expanded, leading to the arrests of six suspects for the distribution of cocaine.