VISALIA — A Dinuba man will be sentenced to 25 years in a state prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter for a 2007 drive-by that resulted in one death.
Jaime Torres, 28, entered his plea on Monday, in the Tulare County Superior Court in Visalia. Included in the plea were three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of great bodily injury due to a second victim suffering from permanent paralysis.
The incident occurred on Aug. 19, 2007 when the Dinuba Police Department received two calls of shots being fired on East Nebraska Avenue. Upon arrival, Dinuba detectives found a vehicle with four occupants, two of whom had been shot, according to the police department. Jesus Gomez Guerra, 21, was found dead, and the driver of the vehicle was airlifted to University Medical Center in Fresno for his injuries. He suffered from permanent paralysis to his lower extremities as a result of the shooting. The other two passengers were not hurt.
The shots came from another car driven by Samuel Martinez, 28, of Dinuba, according to the police department. Torres was the passenger and suspected shooter.
“The motives were gang-related, but the victims were not in any kind of gangs,” said Dinuba police Sgt. Able Iriarte.
It appeared to be a case of mistaken identity, in which the victims were thought to be rival gang members.
Dinuba detectives received a break in the case when a tip led them to a residence in Fresno where Torres was hiding. Although Torres fled the scene with another subject, the detectives were able to apprehend both men with the help of Fresno County M.A.G.E.C team members.
Being able to catch the suspects involved in a drive-by shooting is not always an easy thing. Many go unsolved.
“According to our detectives, very little (get solved),” said Elizabeth Villalobos, community relations specialist with the Dinuba Police Department. “This is because of lack of information, no witnesses, people not willing to come forward.”
Torres will receive his sentence of 25 years in a California state prison on May 17. Martinez had taken a plea in early 2008 for his role in the shooting and received a lesser sentence in a state prison.
Sgt. Iriarte said that it was a very good feeling to see this case come to completion, even though he would have liked to see a stronger sentence handed down.
“At this time, it’s better for (Torres) not to be running free and continuing his crime spree,” Iriarte said.