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Thread: Jonathan 'Black' Barrera, 31, and Marcos Figueroa, 33, convicted of killing Rapper Rene Garcia aka "Lil G the Great" in 2012

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    Senior Member JohnLanders's Avatar
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    Jonathan 'Black' Barrera, 31, and Marcos Figueroa, 33, convicted of killing Rapper Rene Garcia aka "Lil G the Great" in 2012

    MARTINEZ ? Nearly two weeks into their deliberations, a Contra Costa jury convicted two men of participating in the robbery and murder of Rene Garcia, a rising Richmond-area rapper who went by the stage name ?Lil G the Great.?

    Jonathan ?Black? Barrera, 31, and Marcos Figueroa, 33, were found guilty of murder, attempted robbery, and a series of enhancements related to the February 2012 shooting of Garcia. But the jury announced it was hung on Gabriel ?G-Baby? Schroeder, 25, who was accused of being one of the three men to gun down Garcia.

    Danielle Jones, who defended Schroeder along with attorney David Briggs, predicted that her client would be vindicated if the case went to trial again.

    ?Each and every of the 12 jurors worked very hard throughout trial,? Jones said. ?Whether they voted for guilt or not guilt, I?m confident that if this case does get retried, Mr. Schroeder is going to prevail. The case is entirely circumstantial ? I think that?s what hung them. I think it speaks volumes about the DA?s case.?

    The partial verdict closes a trial that has lasted longer than any criminal case in Contra Costa County in recent memory, and was held up for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a prosecution that centered on gang violence, ?beef? ? a street term for disputes between rappers ? and betrayal, and relied heavily on the word of a former gang leader who testified Barrera had confessed to him.

    David Cohen, Barrera?s attorney said he was grateful for the diligence of the jury, but added he plans to file a retrial motion. He predicted that if his team was able to fully investigate evidence turned over to the defense late in the game ? cell phone records that were discovered last December, after the trial started ? the result would have been different.

    ?I believe the phone records do show circumstantially that my client is innocent. We?re going to continue to pursue that in a motion for a new trial,? Cohen said. He added that several other witnesses, including people with potential involvement in the homicide, either refused to take the stand or invoked their Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self incrimination.

    ?That puts us in a difficult position ? we were kind of hamstrung on all that,? Cohen added.

    Garcia was shot and killed at Shields-Reid Park in North Richmond in February 2012, an area known to be territory of a Sure?o subset gang called Varrio Frontera Locos, or VFL. Both Barrera and Schroeder are members of the gang, and Schroeder ? who was 16 when Garcia was killed ? is serving a prison sentence for an unrelated homicide.

    A third suspected shooter, Jose ?Vato? Rodriguez, was shot and killed in Vallejo a year after Garcia?s death.

    Figueroa, who is not a gang member, was accused of setting up Garcia, his former friend, under the guise of arranging for Garcia to buy a firearm at the park. He and Garcia were friends for many years, but had recently drifted apart after Garcia began associating with rappers in central Richmond, an area with gangs that have longtime rivalries with the North Richmond area.

    For all three defendants, the prosecution?s case was based on circumstantial evidence. Attorneys for Barrera and Schroeder have argued that police simply nabbed the wrong VFL members, as numerous members of the gang had a motive to kill Garcia. Figueroa?s attorney has rebuffed the charges by arguing that he had no idea the meeting at the park was going to be a set up, pointing out that Figueroa shed tears in court as details of Garcia?s death were recited onto the record.

    ?This whole case is extremely sad and tragic. A young man with a lot of talent lost his life apparently over a rap song and gang politics,? Figueroa?s lawyer, Jane Elliot, said in an email. ?Now two other young men are lost to the prison system. Even if my client had been found not guilty, this is a case in which there would still be no ?winners.'?

    At the time of his death, Garcia was a emerging as one of the most prominent rappers in the East Bay, his music videos receiving hundreds of thousands of plays online. Though a Pinole resident, he dubbed himself the ?Prince of Richmond? and associated with other Richmond rappers. That became a point of contention for his former friends, like Bryan ?White Boy? Escalante, a VFL member who headed up a rap group within VFL known as the Duffy Squad, prosecutors said.

    The night he was killed, Garcia had recently reunited with his girlfriend, who tried to persuade him not to meet with Figueroa. Garcia was well-aware of his ongoing problems with VFL, but insisted that Figueroa wouldn?t set him up, Garcia?s girlfriend testified at trial.

    They drove to the park and were almost immediately accosted and robbed by three gunmen, who pulled Garcia out of the car. Surveillance video from across the street shows Garcia wiggling loose, yelling at his girlfriend to drive off, then frantically running across the park in a desperate attempt to save himself.

    The three shooters ? whose faces cannot be made out on video ? then calmly line up, extend their pistols, and fire an estimated 20 shots at Garcia, whose back was turned. He fell to the ground and was dead when police arrived.

    It took three years before authorities identified Barrera, Schroeder, and Rodriguez as suspects in the case, in part thanks to a former VFL member who claimed to be a ?shot caller,? or leader, or the gang. The former member testified during trial, alleging that Barrera confessed to him that he?d participated in the murder. The defense attempted to discredit him, describing him as a rat who was lying on the stand so he could benefit from a witness relocation money that pays stipends to its participants.
    A date for a new trial motion has not yet been set. If it fails, Figueroa and Barrera face life sentences, which will likely be handed down sometime in mid-2021.

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    Senior Member JohnLanders's Avatar
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    in this archive Rene Garcia was (25) at the time of death.

    MARTINEZ — When he was gunned down in February 2012, Bay Area rapper Rene Garcia was targeted because of an “ongoing feud” with rappers affiliated with a West Contra Costa street gang, according to county prosecutors.

    Rene Giancarlo Garcia, 25. (California Department of Motor Vehicles)
    Rene Giancarlo Garcia, 25. (California Department of Motor Vehicles)
    Garcia, who rapped under the moniker “Lil’ G the Great,” had reportedly angered members of a Richmond gang affiliated with the Sure?os when he declared himself the “Prince of Richmond.” Three Bay Area residents have been charged with the killing, including a man who authorities say killed two people before his 18th birthday. A fourth, deceased suspect has also been identified.

    According to prosecutors, a gang leader who considered himself one of Richmond’s best rappers “took offense to (Garcia) claiming the same status,” according to a prosecution’s statement of the case. Garcia responded with “offensive” lyrics directed at the man, and further angered the gang by associating with rival members.

    Association with outside gang members by Garcia would create a greater potential motivation for a Sure?o not to be pleased with the raps Garcia was putting out,” Deputy district attorney Chad Mahalich wrote in a prosecution memo.

    Two alleged gang members — Jonathan Barrera, 30, and Gabriel Schroeder, 22, have been charged with murdering Garcia, along with Marcos Figueroa, 30, a friend of Garcia’s who allegedly set him up the day of the killing. They are inching towards a trial date — where inner workings of the gang are expected to be revealed — and a pretrial hearing has been scheduled for July 14.

    Barrera and Schroeder were implicated in the killing by a former gang member who was one of 12 gang members indicted in 2008 in connection with a murder spree in San Pablo. In 2013, after he was charged with assaulting a man who’d testified against him in the murder case, one of the defendants agreed to become a government informant.

    On the night Garcia was killed, he and his girlfriend drove to North Richmond to meet with Figueroa, who was seen on surveillance tape entering Garcia’s car along with Barrera, police said. When he entered the car, Barrera allegedly pulled out a gun and demanded Garcia’s money.

    Barrera then dragged Garcia out of the car, and two other alleged gang members approached: Schroeder, and a man identified as Jose Rodriguez, who was killed at age 19 in a 2013 Vallejo drive-by shooting. They robbed Garcia and his girlfriend, according to authorities.

    Then Garcia took off running through Shields-Reid Park, yelling at his girlfriend to do the same. Schroeder, Barrera, and Rodriguez allegedly chased him down and fired at least 20 shots in his direction. He was hit multiple times and then “executed,” according to prosecutors.

    Barrera’s attorney, though, has argued that there are other more logical suspects, including a man who was ID’d by an eyewitness. He argued the main prosecution witness wasn’t trustworthy because he said numerous times that Barrera wasn’t involved, before later changing his story.

    “Were every person named by an informant as having been involved in Garcia’s murder present at the preliminary hearing, the judge may have needed to procure a larger courtroom,” defense lawyer David Cohen, representing Barrera, wrote, later adding, “Mr. Barrera should not be required to stand trial on the basis of such meager evidence as one unreliable man’s word.”

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