The man accused of being with Luis Sosa when he allegedly shot and killed Santa Barbara resident Frank Tacadena on September 13, 2006, testified in court against Sosa Tuesday.
John Lopez, whom Sosa’s defense attorney claims is the one who actually shot Tacadena, is also facing murder charges for the same crime, and his trial will go forward when Sosa’s concludes.
After sifting through testimonies given by police as well as neighbors living in and around the West Islay Street cul-de-sac near Highway 101 at the time of the murder, prosecutor Hilary Dozer called Lopez to the stand. Lopez, a longtime member of the Ventura Avenue Gangsters (VAG) and a childhood friend of Sosa, was granted immunity for his testimony, meaning no information he gave during Sosa’s trial could be used against him in his own murder trial. He also expressed his nervousness and hesitation at testifying because of the possible gang-related retaliation against him.
In a methodical, minute-by-minute approach, Dozer walked Lopez and the jury of six men and six women through the fateful day’s events, beginning with the arrival of Sosa to Lopez’s residence directly from Santa Barbara County Jail that morning. Lopez recalled that after a day of heavy drinking, he and Sosa walked to a nearby deli to buy more alcohol and had encountered Tacadena on their way back. As neighbors, Tacadena and Lopez had a tumultuous past relationship, Lopez said, as they had been in multiple fistfights related to their past mutual use of black tar heroine.
According to Lopez, Sosa and Tacadena exchanged unfriendly words in the driveway of Tacadena’s apartment complex before Sosa shot Tacadena with a .22 caliber pistol he had taken from Lopez’s apartment. It is unclear whether Sosa had explicitly stated his past grievances with Tacadena to Lopez, but what is clear is that one of the two men shot Tacadena before fleeing the scene.
The second day of the trial began with a number of witnesses questioned by both prosecutor Dozer and defense attorney Doug Hayes. Throughout the proceedings, Dozer has attempted to prove that Sosa was the shooter, while Hayes countered this claim by implying that Lopez, not his client, was in fact the man who committed the murder.
At first, testimony by Emma Foster - who lives on West Islay, two doors down from the scene of the murder - appeared to shed light on the incident, but her account quickly unraveled as she began to contradict herself. Foster was a direct witness to the shooting of Tacadena, as her apartment’s front window looks directly onto the driveway in which the shooting occurred. She appeared quite confident as she identified Sosa as the man she saw shoot Tacadena during her testimony.
However, defense attorney Hayes quickly attempted to discredit her assertion by reminding her, and the court, that she incorrectly identified Sosa in a lineup immediately after the murder. He also revealed that during interviews with detectives Foster had claimed that the shooter was wearing a white shirt and that now, during examination, she had clearly stated the shirt was black before switching her story yet again and claiming it was white. Even so, Dozer asked Foster if she was confident the man sitting at the defense table was the one who shot Tacadena, and she replied in the affirmative.
Lopez’s testimony will continue today at 10:30 a.m.