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Extradited shooter found guilty

The ex-gang member had fled to Mexico and faces multiple life sentences.

December 25, 2010|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

A 36-year-old ex-gang member was found guilty on Wednesday of killing a 16-year-old Burbank boy and trying to kill his four friends in 1991 after they left a house party, officials said.

Rodolfo Gallegos faces multiple life sentences for the first-degree murder of Kenneth Caldera Jr. and attempting to shoot his friends as they were packed into a car on Roscoe Boulevard in Van Nuys, Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Avila said.

Jurors also found that Gallegos had personally used a firearm to commit the crime for the benefit of his street gang, according to the district attorney's office.

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"He was held accountable for the crimes that he committed," Avila said of the jury's verdict.

Kenneth grew up in Burbank, where he played football at Burbank High and was named sophomore class prince of the homecoming court, family members said.

But everything changed on Aug. 24, 1991, when Kenneth and four other friends left a house party and were idling in a car at Willis Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard in Van Nuys.

A large vehicle pulled up next to them, with Gallegos holding a gun outside the driver's side window, witnesses said.

Witnesses testified during the trial that Gallegos fired more than four rounds at the group's car as it drove off onto Roscoe Boulevard. Kenneth, who was sandwiched in the back seat of the coupe with two others, started moaning after yelling out that he had been hit.

Gallegos was 16 when the shooting occurred in a Van Nuys neighborhood that was the territory of Gallegos' street gang, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Gallegos allegedly fled to Mexico after the shooting and got a job as an English teacher at the University of Guanajuato, Celaya, according to the district attorney's office.

He was arrested Oct. 2, 2008, in Mexico and extradited to the United States.

Avila said the case was challenging because he had to try to find witnesses for a murder that happened nearly 20 years ago.

"Rodolfo Gallegos learned [Wednesday] that you cannot escape justice for murder by fleeing to Mexico," county District Atty. Steve Cooley said in a statement. "You can attempt to flee a jurisdiction, but we always work hard to bring justice home."

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