Gang members convicted of murder in La Mesa
LA MESA, Calif. — Two gang members were convicted Wednesday of murder and other charges stemming from a pair of shootings that took place years apart in La Mesa as part of a protracted gang feud.
Jurors deliberated for one week before finding Donte Haddock and Anthony Frank, both 28, guilty of two counts each of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of attempted murder. The panel also found true special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, committing multiple murders and discharging a gun out of a vehicle.
The defendants are slated to be sentenced on Oct. 11 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of Xusha Brown Jr., 22, on May 5, 2013, and Darris Walker, 20, on April 30, 2011.
A third defendant, 29-year-old Alaeante Eason, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and awaits sentencing next month.
Walker was shot several times while sitting in the back seat of a car parked in the lot of a restaurant on Alvarado Road. Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach told jurors that the defendants waited in bushes at the lot, then opened fire on Walker from both sides of the vehicle.
Defense attorneys Jane Kinsey and Richard Jayakumar alleged that Walker was actually killed by Allen Baker, another gang member who was shot and killed by police in Sunnyvale in 2015. Following Baker’s death, two guns were found in his possession, which matched the calibers of the weapons used to kill Walker. Rather than two gunmen approaching from both sides of the car, the defense alleged that Baker circled the car on his own, firing with both guns.
An incarcerated defense witness also testified that Baker admitted to the killings.
Jayakumar alleged that Frank and Walker were friends.
Brown, a member of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, was an unintended target, according to the prosecution. He was riding in a car on eastbound Interstate 8 in La Mesa when shots fired from another car struck him in the head and wounded the driver, Malcolm Hune, according to Roach. The car belonged to Haddock, who was driving while Frank emptied a pistol into the vehicle with the intention of killing Hune, she alleged.
The prosecutor said the car could be seen on surveillance footage circling a gas station where Hune and Brown were fueling up just before the shooting. Days afterward, the car was posted for sale on Craigslist, presumably in an attempt to get rid of the evidence, Roach said.
Kinsey conceded that Haddock’s car had been used in the killing, but alleged that he was staying at a woman’s home during the night Brown died. She said Haddock and Hune were friends, and that he would have had no reason to want Hune dead.
Jayakumar said that his client, Frank, was driving the car, but had no idea a shooting was going to occur. Instead, Eason was the shooter and front passenger, Jayakumar alleged, and tried to take out Hune to increase his standing within the gang, as well as settle a personal score with Hune over a woman.
According to Roach, Frank told some witnesses that he killed Brown, while text messages implicated Haddock in the killing.
The prosecutor also introduced cell phone evidence showing that Haddock and Frank’s phones were near the areas of both shootings when the killings occurred. Both defendants’ phones were turned off shortly before the shootings, and turned back on shortly afterwards, according to Roach.
Eason, Haddock and Frank were arrested in 2016.