Evidence photo of a shot-caller with VHB (Vista Home Boys) on chest
Local gangsters allegedly video-recorded beatings intended to “jump in” new members and kept those videos on their Snapchat accounts, according to experts who testified in San Diego County superior court on March 10.
“They use Snapchat to boost their morale within the gang, to get new members, they give out orders and take orders through Snapchat,” said gang specialist Timothy Clark, who has been with the Sheriff for 16 years, during a pre-trial hearing.
Sheriff's photo of Vista Home Boys beating 13-year-old
Clark claimed that street thugs use different social media to keep homies up-to-the-minute on important information. “They announce on Facebook where the cops currently are, around the city.”
Sheriff’s gang specialists served warrants to search the social media accounts of 18-year-old Issac Augustin Jaime Guerrero after he was caught putting up graffiti in another gang’s territory, according to testimony.
Guerrero is a Vista Home Boy and he painted VHB in a park in Oceanside that is claimed by the Posole gang, it is alleged. Guerrero wrote his gang moniker GRIZZ1, that is Grizz One, it is alleged. Guerrero wrote the symbol X3, that as “homage to the Mexican Mafia, which in California is a prison gang,” according to expert testimony.
(The number 13 or X3 refers to the 13th letter of the alphabet which refers to the Mexican Mafia, according to experts.)
The Vista Home Boys is a unique gang because the city of Vista has only one Hispanic gang which claims the entire city, according to experts. Clark claimed that a subset of the VHB gang called itself “the Townsite Boys” and tried to break away and create their own gang, “but that was not allowed.” Clark said there are 201 “documented” VHB gang members, and perhaps another 20 or 30 “suspected” gang members.
The sheriff’s warrant on social media obtained photos and videos of persons as young as 13 and 14 and 15, they were seen flashing gang signs and hanging out with known gangsters.
In many of the recordings the V symbol is seen, “The V is for Vista Home Boys, that’s their main sign they will hold up walking down the street,” one expert testified. Issac Guerrero was seen signing VHB, according to testimony.
And there were other hand signs, such as EBK for Every Body Killer. The hand sign CSK meant Center Street Killer, and was a specific threat to particular gang.
Sheriff said the 13-year-old was beaten unconscious.
Investigators claimed the Snapchat messages and videos revealed Guerrero giving instruction to someone to “rush them for 22 seconds.” The experts said this was Guerrero directing others to beat two 13-year-old hopefuls for 22 seconds as a “jump-in,” this as a ritual for the boys to become part of the VHB gang.
Guerrero is accused of saying to another gangster, “It’s a little reality check,” referencing the beating of the 13-year-olds. He said, “Take a video if you can.”
The boys would be assaulted for 22-seconds because V is the 22nd letter of the alphabet, according to the experts.
Guerrero allegedly said, “It is not official until they have a meeting.” It was unclear if the “meeting” was the beating or a different get-together.
A 14-year-old named Alberto and a 15-year-old named Martinez were seen beating two different 13-year-olds in two different videos, according to the experts. The videos were offered as evidence and played in court for a judge.
In one video, the 13-year-old was beaten until he fell unconscious onto the ground. A voice off-camera was heard counting out loud until the boy went down, which happened at 17 seconds. The boy was then awakened and he got up and the older boys hit him again until the required 22 seconds was completed.
During the beating, the boy did not hit back, but he did put up his arms and bent over trying to shelter his head.
Expert Clark gave his opinion that the beating was initiation into the VHB gang, he said it was not a random attack. “They picked him up off the ground and shook his hand, so it was a jump in. They did not threaten him afterwards.” Clark said that a wanna-be-gangster will suffer the attack because, “It is to show their toughness.” The jump-in and the video are proof that the initiate is able to survive an attack by a rival gang member, Clark said.
The expert said that one of the 13-year-old boys seen in the video, later claimed to be a member of the VHB. Expert Clark said, “The gang has just grown by two people.”
The videos of the beatings and gangsters throwing hand-signs were taken in Vista, near Northcrest Lane and Weston Circle, it is alleged.
At the hearing, defense attorney Alvaro Gonzalez argued against the experts’ description of defendant Guerrero as a “shot caller.” The attorney expressed amazement that such a claim would be made about an 18-year-old, and he implied that someone of shot-caller status would be older and have a substantial criminal record. “You have to put in work to become an OG or a shot-caller,” Gonzalez asserted.
Gonzalez pointed out that Guerrero was not in the videos of the 13-year-olds getting beaten.
The defense attorney argued that maybe the 13-year-olds chose to join the gang cause they live in the neighborhood, they thought it was cool, maybe their family are gang members and they are continuing the tradition, maybe they needed protection. He declared that there is no evidence they were threatened. He suggested that the 13-year-olds made a decision to voluntarily participate, even though “it may be barbaric.”
Prosecutor Anita Spinetta claimed that the street gang used the beating videos like “a recruiting video, like joining the Marines.” And she declared that if Guerrero was not a “shot caller” he was at the very least an “aider and abettor” to the beatings.