Testimony in the trial of known Westside Projects gang member, Marcos Ramos, confirmed his DNA was on the .22-caliber handgun found at the scene of his arrest.
Ramos was arrested in February 2010 after police responded to a call of trespassing in progress at 33 1/2 Parker Way #12. When they arrived, Ramos and Robert Harper were in the empty apartment with items commonly used to cook heroin, instruments for injection, and the drug itself. Found in the hallway by the door of the apartment was a duffel bag with a letter addressed to Ramos on top. Inside the bag was a Browning .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun wrapped in a blue bandanna.
Ramos has been charged with possession of heroin, possession of a handgun by a felon, and possession of a controlled substance while armed with a firearm. The charges would be a second strike for Ramos, who is one of 30 people named in a citywide gang injunction announced this past March.
Detective Kenneth Kushner of the Santa Barbara Police Department, who responded to the scene about 10 minutes after the call, described the layout of the apartment and what he found there.
Kushner testified that as he entered, he saw Ramos near the kitchen counter and followed him as he ran to a back bedroom where he was apprehended. On the counter lay an upside-down soda can bottom, a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor, and the cap of a needle. Kushner said, from his experience, the bottom of a soda can can be used to heat up heroin for it to liquefy.
In the bedroom, near where Ramos lay on the ground, was a black baseball hat with a white “P” and a syringe filled with heroin. Kushner testified that the needle was ready to be used for injecting the drug. He added that the hat with the “P” was common attire for members of the Westside Projects gang; it signifies their membership. Ramos’s cell phone contained a photo of him wearing the same hat.
While under cross-examination by Ramos’s defense attorney Nathan Poulos, Kushner said Harper was high on heroin at the time of arrest, but could not say whether Ramos was, too.
Anthony Melena, a former high-ranking member of the Guadalupe street gang near Santa Maria, was housed in jail with Ramos just after his February 2010 arrest. Melena himself had just been arrested on similar charges. He has since renounced his gang affiliation and entered protective custody.
Melena testified that while in county jail he heard Ramos explain the story of his recent arrest. According to Melena, Ramos said he was going to his girlfriend’s house in the same apartment complex the night of the arrest. After he was locked out of her apartment, he broke into the vacant apartment across the hall because he had nowhere else to go. He then called Harper to bring over heroin, as he had recently used methamphetamines and was “coming down.” Before he could use any, the police arrived.
Melena testified that in Ramos’s recounting of the night, Ramos said he had wiped the gun clean earlier and that the police wouldn’t be able to trace it back to him.
Ramos allegedly said his cousin would take the fall for the drugs and that he would take the gun charges to trial because his prints weren’t on it and it wasn’t on him when the police arrived.
While in jail with Ramos, Melena helped get drugs to him. He also had participated in an assault on another inmate. When questioned by Poulos, Melena said he had to keep up the idea that he was an active gang member for fear of his own safety. Melena testified that he just wanted to tell the truth, get out, and get his life together.
Finally, two members of Santa Barbara’s Department of Justice lab testified, revealing the results of tests. Criminalist Victoria Prince testified that of the four people whose DNA was found all over the handgun, the major contributor was Ramos. However, she added, there was no way of knowing when or how the DNA got onto the gun.
Senior criminalist David Barber testified that the gun was functioning properly following tests he conducted at the lab’s shooting range.
The trial continues Tuesday.