Four Fresno gang members who led police on a chase down the Big Sur Coast that ended in a hail of gunfire near Cambria pleaded no contest to a variety of charges last week.
Joe Hernandez Jr., 29, who was behind the wheel of the stolen Lincoln Navigator, faces up to 20 years in prison for his role. Ramiro Vasquez and Manuel Del Real, both 22, face sentences of about 19 years in prison. They will be sentenced Aug. 16.
Hernandez and Vasquez are members of the Fresno Bulldogs gang, according to prosecutor David Rabow. Del Real is a Sureño gang member who associates with the Bulldogs, he said.
Also pleading no contest was Flora Encinia, 32, whose sentencing was delayed until Sept. 29 because she has cancer. She pleaded no contest to vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and a misdemeanor gang charge and will be sentenced to probation and up to one year in jail.
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On Nov. 28, the foursome and another woman, Delia Pena, 22, stole the Navigator in Fresno and drove to Pacific Grove, where Hernandez was pulled over for a seat belt violation, according to a statement by Rabow. As the officer approached the passenger window, Hernandez sped away.
The three men and Encinia pleaded no contest to auto theft for that portion of the crime spree, with Hernandez also admitting a gang enhancement.
Law enforcement soon got a report of an attempted carjacking on Highway 1. The victim said he was parked on the side of the road when he was approached by two men, Rabow said. They opened fire when he sped away rather than follow their command to get out.
Del Real pleaded no contest to attempted murder with a firearm and gang enhancement. Hernandez and Vasquez admitted shooting at an occupied vehicle.
The defendants admitted they then burglarized a car before continuing south to a gas station in Gorda, where they held two employees at gunpoint and forced them to fill the car with gas. When one of the workers moved, one of the men fired a shot at him, Rabow said.
Hernandez, Vasquez and Del Real pleaded to one count of robbery each, while Vasquez and Hernandez admitted gun and gang enhancements.
With Monterey County deputies in pursuit, the group fled south, where they were met at the San Luis Obispo County line by deputies there. After initially pulling over, Hernandez drove the Navigator at the deputies, who opened fire, prompting him to stop.
He pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
Charges are pending against Pena, who is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Aug. 11.