A man accused of fatally shooting a father and two sons in San Francisco’s Excelsior District in the summer of 2008 took the stand Monday to testify on his own behalf, making his first public comments since the infamous killings.
Edwin Ramos, 25, of El Sobrante, is charged with murdering Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, on the afternoon of June 22, 2008, near Congdon and Maynard streets as the family was driving home from a picnic.
Ramos took the stand today in his trial, dressed in a suit with a yellow collared shirt and patterned tie. He smiled through much of his testimony today, saying that he smiles a lot “when I’m nervous.”
Ramos, under questioning by his attorney Marla Zamora, denied responsibility for the murders. He said his friend Wilfredo “Flaco” Reyes was the shooter from a car Ramos was driving. Reyes remains at large.
Ramos said he was driving his Chrysler 300 with Reyes in the passenger seat and was turning left from Maynard Street onto Congdon Street.
The Bolognas were in a Honda Civic traveling on Congdon Street and were partially blocking Ramos from turning. At that point, Ramos said Reyes began pointing at the Honda and saying “chappos, chappos,” which is Spanish slang for northerner.
Ramos and Reyes both had ties to MS-13, a street gang allied with the Surenos, or southerners.
He said Reyes “then leaned over me and fired through my window,” shooting about five rounds.
“I got scared,” he said. “It happened really fast.”
Danielle Bologna, the wife and mother of the victims, was in the courtroom and began crying as Ramos recounted the shooting.
Her lone surviving son, Andrew Bologna, 22, who was also in the Honda, testified earlier in the trial that Ramos was the one who fired the shots and that he was the only one in the car.
Ramos said after the shooting, he fled from the intersection and yelled at Reyes as they drove away.
“I said, ‘What’d you do that for?'”
Prosecutors allege that the killings were retaliation for the shooting of another MS-13 gang member, Marvin Medina, in San Francisco’s Mission District earlier that day and that the Bolognas were mistaken for rival gang members.
But Ramos said he did not believe that Anthony Bologna was a gang member, saying “I just saw an old dude in there.”
He said he then dropped Reyes off and parked the car on Cortland Avenue in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, then had his cousin pick him up.
Ramos said he returned to get the car the next day, and found shell casings inside it. He later took it to a car wash to get it cleaned because “you could smell the gunpowder … it smelled really, really bad.”
He said he did not find out that people had died in the shooting until June 24 when co-workers said police were looking for a car similar to his, and he then read a newspaper article about the case.
“I got 10 times more scared,” he said.
Ramos was arrested on June 25 and eventually told investigators that Reyes was the shooter.
When asked by Zamora why he didn’t go to the police at any point after the shooting, he said it was because he believed they did not want to find the real killer.
“Look what happened when I did tell them,” he said. “They still haven’t looked for him.”
Reyes has not been found, and defense attorneys have brought forward witnesses indicating that he fled to South Carolina after the shooting.
Ramos began his testimony this morning by talking about his troubled childhood, which included a move from El Salvador to San Francisco when he was 13.
He said he was subjected to emotional abuse from his mother, who told him he was gay and said “she wished I was never born,” and physical abuse from one of her boyfriends, causing him to run away frequently.
During one of those instances, when he was sleeping on park benches in the area, he said he was befriended by a member of the MS-13 gang and later got “jumped in” to the gang.
After getting arrested multiple times for violent incidents in the city and spending his time in various juvenile detention facilities, Ramos said he started getting into conflicts with members of the gang’s “20th Street” clique in the city’s Mission District.
He said in 2006 he was eventually “green-lighted,” meaning targeted for killing by the gang. To save himself, Ramos said he reached out to Reyes, who he worked with at an auto shop in South San Francisco and who was a member of another MS-13 clique in the East Bay.
Ramos said he pretended to join the “Pasadena Locos Surenos” clique based out of Richmond but did not actually join it, although he had Reyes vouch for him.
Witnesses earlier in the trial, however, testified that he was an active member of that clique up until being arrested for the Bologna killings.
Ramos did admit that he began selling drugs to help financially support his daughter, who was born in July 2007, and was still selling them up until the day of the killings.
On that day, Ramos said he got a call from Reyes saying that Medina had been shot earlier that morning.
Ramos said he eventually met up with Reyes, picking him up in his Chrysler 300, and the pair began driving around the city minutes before the killings, which would later gain national attention because of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy.
The city’s policy shielded undocumented juveniles suspected of crimes from being reported to federal immigration agents.
Ramos’ visa to be in the country had expired but he was not reported to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials despite his numerous contacts with police as a juvenile.
The city changed its policy after the murders. The Bolognas also sued the city over the policy but a judge later dismissed the suit.
Ramos will continue questioning from Zamora on Tuesday morning, with cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Harry Dorfman likely later in the morning.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News