Wednesday, January 22, 2020

People v. Yanez (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 21, 2020)

Sometimes you don't know how something ends until it actually ends.

I'm reading along about the facts of this case and they progress in a way that's not totally unusual but not exactly usual either.  A guy (Gilbert) and his brother (Angel) are hanging out on the balcony of Angel's apartment when someone comes up and shouts up to them from the street below, asking if they know a guy named "Stoner" (presumably a nickname, and likely an apt one at that).  Angel says they haven't seen him.  So far, not weird at all.

Then one of the guys below asks Angel where he was from.  Now, I've read enough cases to know that's a gang challenge; he wants to know what gang he's in.  Why the guy below cares enough about the preceding -- utterly innocuous -- verbal interactions with Angel is beyond me.  But, okay, there's a challenge.

Angel responds:  "I don't bang."  I don't know how many cases I've seen in which this is the exact same response.  Dozens at least.  Maybe over a hundred.  Virtually inevitably, if you read that in an opinion, you know that guy's going to get shot.

Do most people who say "I don't bang" get shot?  No.  Not at all.  But if you're reading this in the pages of the California Appellate Reports, almost always, someone got shot or stabbed, and it is -- ironically -- the guy who's not in the gang, and who forthrightly says so, who's nonetheless getting injured.  It's depressing, but true.

So I wouldn't have been surprised if the next line of the opinion was that the guy below took out a gun and shot up at Angel, killing him.

Not to be, however.

Instead, what actually happens is a little weirder.  (Not that shooting a random guy for saying he's not in a gang wouldn't be weird.  It would be weird.  It just wouldn't necessarily be unusual.)

Angel's brother instead gets into the mix.  Having just heard his brother respond that he's not in a gang, and feeling offended at the underlying challenge to his kin, the brother (Gilbert) interjects himself into the conversation, saying: “‘Wait a minute’ . . . ‘[w]hy are you coming over here and saying where are you from?’”  Prompting the guy down below to say that he's "Downer" from "JT".  (I presume Downer's a nickname, and don't know offhand the reference to "JT," but presume it's a particular gang, and don't know which one.)

Again, at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if maybe Downer shoots Gilbert from below.  Or maybe even Gilbert shoots Downer.  Maybe Downer is angry and shoots the brother (Angel).  Possibilities abound.

But, no.  There's no shooting up and/or down from the balcony.  Nor do Downer and Gilbert continue their scintillating discourse.

Rather, Gilbert (the brother) proceeds to walk downstairs to confront Downer personally.  Now, me, I'm not particularly interested in escalating a fight with a known gang member.  Much less one who's issued a challenge below, presuming (as I do) that he wouldn't have done so unless armed.

But hey, that's me.  Gilbert's got other ideas.

So Gilbert goes downstairs, and there continues his verbal sparring with Downer.

So what I then expected was for Gilbert to promptly be shot.


It's Gilbert who again escalates the conflict.  After continuing verbal disagreements, Gilbert then tells Downer:  "Let’s get down then.”  To which Downer responds:  "Nah, not with all of these kids here."  So Downer's apparently deescalating the thing.

At which point Gilbert pulls out a gun.

Geeze.  Is this really necessary?!  Why not just stay up on the balcony?  Why get things to this point?  Particularly since you've already made your point:  You told the other guy that you're ready to get it on, and he backed down.  You've won.  Declare victory and go back upstairs.  No need to pull out the weapon.

So now I'm thinking Downer's getting shot.  The moral of the story being:  "Don't issue gang challenges, even to a guy on a balcony who's not in a gang.  Because his brother might shoot you."

But no.  Downer deescalates things again.  He says "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, people in the apartment complex are starting to pull their children indoors.  Because there's a guy with a gun arguing with a gang member outside.  This is not good.

But guess what?  Downer doesn't get shot.  At least at this time.  (I'm reminded of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, who similarly explained to Fred Savage that Princess Buttercup was not eaten by the shrieking eels "at this time." [At 1:11 of the clip]  It's a caveat.  Maybe she gets eaten later.  Maybe not.  TBD.  Ditto for Downer.)

Eventually, the confrontation ends, and Gilbert goes back upstairs and returns to his brother's apartment, and Downer departs.  Which is surprising.  Because I know for a fact that someone's getting shot or stabbed or something because this is a criminal case with a criminal conviction somewhere; indeed, one that results in a sentence of 60 to life.

Okay, so does this set the stage for Gilbert eventually getting shot in a future gang fight?  Albert?  Downer?  The other guy with Downer?  Are there new people to be determined in this story?  I'm telling you right now that in most opinions, someone's already shot and/or killed by this point.

Nope.  Back at our tale, instead, Gilbert's in the apartment, texting messages to his friend, asking him if he knows a "Downer" from "JT" and trying to find out the identity of the aggressor.  Telling his friend that “I pulled out my strap ‘cause I didn’t know who it was” and explaining that "if anyone has beef to get at me on the street, Polfast.”

(Parenthetically:  What?!  I've read a ton of opinions.  I now know lots of slang.  WTF does "Polfast" mean?!  I've never seen that word before.  And can't find it.  Anywhere.  The opinion never tries to explain what it means.  Not that it's central to the story; but, still.  I'm utterly at a loss to explain what Gilbert's trying to say by the word "Polfast".  And Google is no help at all, as the only reference I can find to this term is as a type of Dutch hybrid tomato.  Which I'm pretty sure is not to which Gilbert is attempting to refer.)

Tomatoes aside, so who gets killed?!  Gilbert eventually leaves the building and walks to the parking lot to get (I presume) to his car, and maybe now that the whole "apartment thing" has ended we're going to find out in the opinion about the gang fight three weeks later in retaliation or whatever the crazy thing that happens as the eventual consequence of this initial conversation.

Nope.  Don't have to wait.  "Downer" pops out of the shadeows, says "Hey," and proceeds to shoot Gilbert dead with five shots to the back at close range.

Oh.  So that's how it turns out.

Okay, then.

Ending perhaps not massively unusual.  (Gang member shoots other guy -- maybe gang member, maybe not, but definitely person with a gun himself -- dead in an apartment complex.)  Definitely seen that before.

Just not in this particular context.  Or with this many twists and turns.