Six associates of the MS-13 gang have pleaded guilty to a 2017 group assault on Franklin Gateway in Marietta in which three people were shot. One defendant remains a fugitive.
The pleas, announced by Cobb Acting District Attorney John Melvin on Wednesday, are the result of charges stemming from the night of June 23, 2017, when several people got into a verbal argument at the Marietta Event Hall on Franklin Gateway. Two groups of people then relocated to a shopping center at 2112 South Cobb Drive in Smyrna. As the altercation escalated at the second location, several people began shouting that they were members of MS-13 and one then pulled out a MAC-10 semiautomatic pistol and began shooting, according to Kim Isaza spokesperson for the Cobb DA’s office.
Three people were injured, but all survived.
Additional investigation by Smyrna Police, Cobb DA’s Office investigators, Cobb Police’s anti-gang unit and immigration authorities later confirmed the defendants’ association with the MS-13 gang, Isaza added. There was no evidence that any of the victims were members of a gang.
Investigators ultimately charged seven individuals with violations of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, aggravated assault and attempted affray. Some of the defendants were also variously charged with firearms possession, threatening witnesses and trafficking methamphetamine.
“But for the grace of God, someone could have been killed by the violent and senseless actions of these defendants. Criminal street gangs are a plague on this county and in this State,” Melvin said in Wednesday’s news release.
Remaining at large is 19-year-old Alex Bautista, who last lived in the area of Smyrna Powder Springs Road in Smyrna. Authorities ask anyone who has information on his whereabouts to contact their local law enforcement agency or 911.
Since January, the other six defendants have pleaded guilty before Cobb Superior Court Judge Gregory Poole and been sentenced to prison. One defendant, a 20-year-old from Smyrna, was sentenced under the First Offender Act. The others are:
Julio Cesar Castro, 21, of Marietta pleaded guilty to gang crimes, aggravated assault and threatening a witness. The investigation found that Castro was a leader of the gang and threatened fellow members and witnesses that he would kill them with a machete if anyone talked to authorities. Castro was sentenced to 20 years with 15 years to serve in custody.
♦ Walter Alexander Flores, 19, of Marietta pleaded guilty to one count of Violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and was sentenced to 20 years with 10 years to serve in prison, and was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution. At the same hearing, Flores also pleaded guilty to committing a gang-related drive-by shooting of another teenager on May 8, 2017, at the Reserve at Windy Hill apartment complex. His sentences in the two cases will run concurrently.
♦ Cesar Lopez, 19, of Marietta pleaded guilty to one count of Violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and was sentenced to seven years, with one year to serve in prison, and was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.
♦ Gustavo Adolfo Lopez Mendez, 22, of Marietta pleaded guilty to gang crimes, aggravated assault, attempted affray, possessing a firearm during commission of a felony and trafficking methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 25 years, with 20 years to serve.
♦ Josue Hernandez-Perez, 18, of Marietta pleaded guilty to one count of Violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and was sentenced to 15 years, with two years to serve in custody, and was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.