DOWNTOWN L.A. — A member of the 18th Street gang, one of Los Angeles’ most notorious, was convicted Thursday of murdering five people, including two at the Moose Lodge in Sunset Park, during a crime spree that stretched more than three years, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.
William Vasquez, 30, will be back in court on Dec. 14 to learn whether or not he will face the death penalty or spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Vasquez was convicted of first-degree murder for the Jan. 27, 2002, killing of Alex Haro; the Dec. 3, 2003, slaying of Kevin Walton; the March 5, 2005, slayings of Jonathan Hernandez and Hector Bonilla and the Sept. 24, 2005, shooting death of Jesse Becerra.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations that there were multiple murders and that two of the murders were carried out to further the activities of a criminal street gang, along with gang allegations involving the other three murders.
He was also convicted of one count of attempted murder and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. One count of using a personal firearm was found to be not true.
During opening statements in Vasquez’ trial, Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim described Vasquez as a killer who sought to win respect and spread fear through the brutality of his crimes. In the Moose Lodge murders, the two victims, Hernandez and Bonilla, were shot a total of 25 times, including several times in the back as they lay dying on the floor, she said.
The prosecutor noted that Vasquez had chosen “to write on his body what’s he’s done,” with tattoos of rival gang names crossed out and one reading “killa.”
One of Vasquez’ lawyers countered that identity was a key issue, while another defense attorney questioned the credibility of the accounts of key prosecution witnesses who had implicated their client.
Two other men, Jose Mojarro and Erick Nunez, were convicted in March 2009 of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Hernandez and Bonilla during a private party at the Moose Lodge in 2005. They were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hernandez, of Ocean Park, and Bonilla, of the Pico Neighborhood, were attending a private party at the Moose Lodge on 16th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard on the night of March 5, 2005, when Mojarro, Nunez and Vasquez showed up uninvited. An argument broke out between the men and Hernandez while they were at the bar, according to prosecutors.
Bonilla allegedly intervened in the fight before the shooting began.