Three gang members accused of going on a two-week crime spree, during which a man who they allegedly mistook for an undercover police officer was killed in Chula Vista and a female victim branded as a “snitch” was shot and left paralyzed, pleaded not guilty Monday to murder, attempted murder and other charges that could bring the death penalty if they’re convicted.
Cesar Alvarado, 39, Britney Canal, 29, and Michael Anthony Pedraza, 27, were all ordered held without bail. They face special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, murder during a robbery or kidnapping and murder by discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.
Deputy District Attorney David Grapilon said the crime spree started about 8 a.m. on April 1 when Alvarado and Canal allegedly robbed two people at gunpoint at the Howard Johnson motel in Chula Vista.
On April 11, about 12:50 p.m., the defendants spotted a car driven by Mario Serhan — who they suspected was an officer surveilling them — and followed him down Industrial Boulevard in Chula Vista, according to the prosecutor.
Canal pulled up next to Serhan and Alvarado allegedly shot the victim in the head, Grapilon said in a motion in support of denying bail to the defendants.
Grapilon said Serhan was an innocent victim who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The prosecutor alleged that the defendants had a kidnapping victim — identified only as Mya H. in court documents — in the back seat of their car when Serhan was murdered.
Grapilon said Mya H. had agreed to hang out with a friend at Sunset Cliffs and use drugs with him, but Alvarado, Canal and Pedraza showed up and robbed her, then shocked her with a stun gun.
Over the course of two days, the defendants allegedly forced her to call family and friends for money. They accused Mya H. of being a “snitch” and ordered her to walk down to the ocean, where Pedraza shot her three times, Graphilon alleged.
One of the bullets went through her left ear. Tourists found her four hours later, and she was taken to a hospital, where she underwent surgery, the prosecutor said. She is paralyzed and remains in critical condition, the prosecutor said.
The night of Serhan’s murder, the defendants allegedly beat a man they accused of taking money from Pedraza’s wallet, which he had dropped at the Knight’s Inn motel in San Ysidro.
The afternoon of April 12, Pedraza allegedly stabbed a man in the leg at El Toyon Park after Alvarado confronted the victim in his car, Grapilon said.
The alleged victim, Derek Grover, pursued his attackers in his car, and during the chase, Alvarado allegedly fired three shots at Grover, missing him, the prosecutor said in his court filing.
A status conference was set for May 17.
— City News Service