The trial of Edwin Ramos, an alleged MS-13 gang member accused of murdering a father and two of his sons in San Francisco’s Excelsior District in 2008, began today with opening statements from the prosecution and defense.
Ramos, 25, of El Sobrante, is charged with fatally shooting Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, near Congdon and Maynard streets on the afternoon of June 22, 2008.
The Bolognas were on their way back from a family picnic and were a few blocks away from their home.
“But they never made it home,” Assistant District Attorney Harry Dorfman said as he laid out the case against Ramos to the jury.
Dofman said Ramos, known in the gang as “Popeye,” shot the Bolognas after mistaking them for rival gang members and that the shooting was in retaliation for the shooting of Marvin Medina, a fellow MS-13 gang member, earlier that day.
Dorfman said “four people were supposed to die” in the shooting, but one of Tony Bologna’s three sons, Andrew, survived and will testify in the trial later this week.
Dorfman said Andrew Bologna will testify that he saw Ramos pull up in a Chrysler 300 sedan alongside the Bolognas’ Honda, then give “some sort of mugging look” to Tony Bologna before opening fire.
“The shooting was very focused and from very close range,” Dorfman said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish.”
Ramos had a long history of gang ties, including being accused of an attack on a Muni bus in 2003, according to Dorfman, who also showed a picture from February 2007 of Ramos and an acquaintance flashing gang signs with their hands.
“They’re not trying to put rabbit shadows on the wall,” he said.
In March 2008, three months before the Bologna murders, Ramos was also driving Erick “Spooky” Lopez in San Francisco when he was stopped by police. Lopez bolted from the car but was arrested, having been sought in connection with a double murder from a day earlier, Dorfman said.
He said the shooting of the Bolognas was retaliation for Medina, who was injured in a shooting in the city’s Mission District earlier on June 22.
“Retaliation is part of the gang culture,” Dorfman said. “Gang members value violence … violence earns respect and trust.”
Defense attorney Marla Zamora, on the other hand, said that her client was innocent and that the case was about “how the government and MS-13 made Edwin Ramos the fall guy.”
Zamora said Ramos had stopped participating in the gang in 2006 but remained friends with many of the gang members in the following years.
She said that it was Wilfredo “Flaco” Reyes who fired the shots at the Bolognas, not Ramos, and that Andrew Bologna might not have actually seen the shooting because he ducked when shots were fired.
Bologna told police he only saw one person in the suspect car, while other witnesses reported seeing at least two people in the vehicle, Zamora said.
Zamora said Ramos “wasn’t a saint” but had a job and was supporting his wife and young daughter.
She said certain members of the MS-13 gang had animosity toward Ramos and are “leaving Mr. Ramos holding the bag,” and said the government has only half-heartedly searched for Reyes, who has not been found by investigators since the shooting.
The case drew criticism of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, which shielded illegal immigrant juveniles suspected of crimes from being reported to federal immigration agents.
Ramos is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who moved to the U.S. in 2000 and had numerous contacts with San Francisco police for drugs and violent crimes as a juvenile but was not reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The city has changed its policy since the murders. The Bologna family also sued the city over the sanctuary policy, although a judge later dismissed the suit.
Danielle Bologna, the wife and mother of the victims, was in court today wearing large sunglasses and sobbed frequently during the opening statements.
She and Andrew Bologna remain in protective custody because of the case, which also prompted authorities to hold the trial in a secure courtroom protected with bulletproof glass.
The trial will continue Tuesday with the start of witness testimony.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News