Passenger testifies about fatal Oceano drive-by shooting

Witness recalls incident that left an Arroyo Grande teen dead

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comNovember 30, 2012 

A Guadalupe man testified Friday that he was in the car with Armando Yepez when Yepez fired several bullets into a crowd of teenagers in Oceano a year ago, killing one of them.

“He told me to roll down the window, and I rolled down the window,” Henry Ramos testified. “He leaned over me and shot the gun.”

Yepez, of Santa Maria, is charged with the Nov. 17, 2011, murder of Arroyo Grande 17-year-old Gabriel Salgado. The District Attorney’s Office alleges that Yepez, a transplanted Los Angeles gang member, was upset over confrontations with local gang members when he randomly took his anger out on the teens, who were at the corner of 21st and Paso Robles streets in Oceano. 

On Friday, three of the teens who were with Salgado testified that they were standing near a curb after playing touch football when a car slowly approached with its passenger window down. It was too dark to see anyone in the car, but they saw several flashes from inside the car before the vehicle sped off.

Salgado, who collapsed after suffering a gunshot wound to the head, never regained consciousness. Another teen was shot once in each leg.

Six months later, detectives contacted Ramos, a 24-year-old gang member with two felony assault convictions, and said they knew he was involved, according to Ramos.

He said he didn’t report the crime — and initially denied involvement when contacted by police — because he had recently been paroled. “I was just scared,” Ramos said. 

Eventually, he cut a deal with the prosecution — his testimony in exchange for a four-year sentence for being an accomplice to murder.

During his testimony, he said Yepez had a .38 special revolver hidden in his girlfriend’s car that day. As they approached a group of people in that car, Yepez told Ramos to get the gun. Shortly afterward, Yepez leaned over the passenger side and fired.

Ramos, who had surgery on both eyes this past May, said he couldn’t see what had happened and couldn’t drive a car because of his poor eyesight.

“We just drove, and I asked him, ‘Did you hit anybody?’ ” Ramos testified. “And he said, ‘No. And I don’t care.’ ”

After the shooting, he said, Yepez drove north, where he told Ramos to throw the bullet casings out a window. The two also wiped the interior of the car down, Ramos said.

“I was just listening to everything he was telling me,” Ramos said.

Defense attorney Gerald Carrasco has suggested that Ramos isn’t reliable. And Friday, he homed in on a comment Ramos made about feeling pressured by police. 

But a secretly taped conversation between Ramos and Yepez, played for jurors, featured Yepez allegedly making incriminating comments. At one point, Ramos asked Yepez whether he felt remorse over killing someone.

“Nah,” Yepez said. “That’s nothing, dude.”

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