Eyewitness: Oceano drive-by shooting suspect fired at teens

Armando Yepez
Armando Yepez

The prosecution’s lone eyewitness to a fatal drive-by shooting in Oceano last year said he suffers from poor eyesight and poor short-term memory. But, he added, his memory of the night that 17-year-old Gabriel Salgado was killed is clear.

“I don’t remember every detail, but I do remember a lot,” said Henry Ramos, 24, of Guadalupe, during Superior Court testimony Monday.

Ramos is a key witness in the trial of Armando Yepez, who was 21 when he was arrested for Salgado’s murder last spring. The District Attorney’s Office says Yepez randomly shot into a group of teens on Nov. 17, 2011, because he was angry over confrontations with gangs in the Oceano area.

Yepez, whom the prosecution alleges was a transplanted Los Angeles gang member, allegedly fired into the crowd several times, killing Salgado and wounding another 14-year-old boy.

Ramos, who said he was a passenger in the car driven by Yepez, said Yepez approached the crowd, then briefly stopped, saying, “There’s some oysters,” meaning gang members.

Ramos didn’t take him seriously, he said. But he did hand Yepez a “.38 special” revolver that was hidden in the car when his friend asked for it. He also lowered the passenger window.

Ramos said he couldn’t see the crowd because he suffered from poor vision, which later required multiple surgeries. But he said he heard Yepez shout an expletive at the teens, calling them “oysters,” before several shots were fired.

During cross-examination by Yepez’s attorney, Gerald Carrasco, Ramos admitted to having poor eyesight, saying he often kept his eyes closed due to sensitivity to light and vehicle headlights. He also said he has suffered short-term memory problems since he was a child.

“I forget things,” he said.

Sometimes, Ramos said, he thinks he remembers things that didn’t actually happen. Yet, he added, his testimony about the murder is accurate. And while he initially lied to police about his role, he said his story now is correct.

“I’m taking responsibility for my own actions (despite) how scared I am,” he said. For his part in the alleged crime, the 24-year-old Ramos cut a deal with the prosecution -- his testimony in exchange for a four-year sentence for being an accomplice to murder.

Also during Monday’s testimony, Ken Jones, a forensic specialist for the Sheriff’s Office, said he detected gun residue in the car Yepez allegedly drove that night.

But Carrasco, in his opening statement, suggested the residue might have come from another time – and possibly a previous owner, who was a hunter.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune