Long prison terms plus two life sentences were handed down Tuesday for two gang members who were convicted of trying to kill a Chula Vista Police officer and another man who was shot three times outside Wild Wooly’s Saloon in 2011.
The life sentences were given to James Martinez, 21, of Imperial Beach, and Sean Darby O’Neill, 23, of Chula Vista, and the terms do allow for parole possibility. However, Martinez also got 93 years and O’Neill received 44 years to be served consecutively.
“I believe justice was done,” said Deputy District Attorney David Bost afterwards.
Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Ana Espana also fined them $10,364 each. Martinez received 585 days credit and O’Neill got 558 days already spent in jail.
A jury that deliberated 11 hours over three days convicted both men on July 25 of premeditated attempted murder, assault upon a police officer, conspiracy to commit assault, and evading police officers while engaging with a criminal street gang.
After the verdict, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano praised the exemplary teamwork of all those “who worked tirelessly to investigate, arrest, and prosecute the defendants.”
Robert Romero was shot twice in the chest and once in the leg on April 23, 2011, outside the Wild Wooly’s Saloon at 247 Broadway in Chula Vista. Officer Ricardo Cruz responded to a 1 a.m. call of a shooting and was nearly run over after finding Martinez and O’Neill in a white Toyota on a cul-de-sac.
The gang charges added 25 years to the sentences and the attempted murder charges added 30 years because both defendants had prior felony convictions and were doubled, said Bost. Martinez got the maximum term.
At the cul-de-sac, Cruz ordered both men out of the Toyota at gunpoint. Instead, the driver drove forward, and Cruz fired shots into the hood and windshield.
He jumped into his patrol vehicle, but the Toyota slammed the door on his foot, breaking it, and his knee and back were injured. Cruz is back on duty but neither he nor Romero appeared at the sentencing.
The Toyota, which was registered to Martinez’s brother, was found abandoned near a church on Fifth Avenue and E Street. The defendants’ fingerprints were found on the car along with a box of ammunition inside the vehicle. The gun was thrown from the vehicle and it was located.