Jacob Haro, 25, was 17 when he shot 16-year-old Ruben Zamora on May 26, 2012 at the intersection of Virginia and King roads. In addition to being convicted of murder, a jury this week found Haro guilty of attempted murder for wounding another person during the 2012 shooting, as well as of negligent discharge of a firearm.
With gang enhancements also handed down by the jury, Haro faces 85 years to life in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for March 13.
Police and prosecutors contend that Haro — who previously lost his brother to gang violence and had witnessed a fellow gang member stabbed to death a month and a half before the shooting — shot at Zamora and his companions after pegging them as rivals. Investigators believe the shooting triggered another deadly shooting a few months later.
“This verdict closes the book on a horrific string of retaliatory gang violence and murders that plagued San Jose in 2012,” Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker said.
Two people also charged in Zamora’s murder, Joseph Anthony Martinez and a defendant who was 16 at the time of the killing, are scheduled to appear in court for trial on Jan. 17.
Authorities say a fourth defendant, Miguel Angel Marcelo, fled to Mexico in the days after the shooting and has not been heard from since.
According to investigators, Marcelo was driving a van carrying his girlfriend, Haro, and their 16-year-old companion when Marcelo stopped in the middle of traffic on northbound King Road and started yelling at a group of rival gang members standing at the opposite corner.
Moments later, someone inside a car behind the van shot at the group. Baker argued at trial that this prompted Haro to get out of the vehicle and open fire at the other group as they fled. Zamora was shot in the face and leg, and died at the scene.
Haro’s defense attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, argued at the trial that his client acted in self-defense, and shot at the group in response to a threat.
Baker refuted that contention, citing surveillance footage of the incident.
“The video evidence made clear that Mr. Haro was shooting at people who were running for their lives,” Baker said.
By the time police responded to the shooting, they had no immediate suspects. And they may never have found any, had it not been for a couple that happened to witness the shooting as they drove by, and then followed Marcelo’s van for over a mile to get a clean look at the license plate.
Haro was arrested six months later.
“This case would have gone unsolved if is wasn’t for a husband and wife following a van of armed gang members at great personal risk,” Baker said.
Martinez and the third, younger defendant are being tried separately from Haro in accordance with reforms to the state’s felony murder law, which previously allowed accomplices to a murder to be charged as severely as the person who directly committed the killing.
Before the shooting, Haro and his companions had been mourning the death of 22-year-old Joseph Michael Robidoux-Cadle, who was fatally stabbed April 7, 2012 in what police believe was a gang-motivated attack. Evidence presented at Haro’s trial showed that Marcelo and his girlfriend were wearing shirts featuring tributes to Cadle when Zamora was shot.
Baker contends that Zamora’s killing was the motivator for another fatal shooting, of Armando Heredia, later that year. Balam Eugenio Gonzalez, was convicted of murder in Heredia’s killing, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“In my view, these two killings [of Cadle and Zamora] essentially set off the wave of gang retaliation that plagued San Jose” in 2012, Baker said.