A federal jury in Charlotte, N.C., imposed the death penalty on 25-year-old Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana (a.k.a. "Wizard"), who shot and killed two brothers in December 2007 in Guilford County, N.C.
Umana was convicted by the same jury on April 19 for the murders of brothers Ruben Garcia Salinas and Manuel Garcia Salinas.
The jury also found that Umana was responsible for other murders in Los Angeles in 2005—on July 27, Umana killed Jose Herrera and Gustavo Porras; and on Sept. 28, he participated and aided in the killing of Andy Abarca. He'll be sentenced in those crimes at a later date.
During the April 19 conviction, the jury found Umana guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering; two counts of murder in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13; two counts of murder resulting from the use of a gun in a violent crime; possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; one count of extortion; and two criminal counts associated with witness tampering or intimidation.
"Gangs have no place in our communities," said Owen Harris, special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte division. "The jury's finding today sends a message to those gang members who think they can avoid responsibility for their deeds. We will not stop going after them."
According to testimony presented during the trial, Umana, a former resident of Greensboro, N.C., was a member of a Charlotte-based cell of Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. The gang is composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador.
Witnesses testified at trial that Umana was a veteran member of the MS-13 who had illegally traveled from El Salvador to Los Angeles, New York and, eventually, to Greensboro. Testimony established that in the fall of 2007 he was asked by MS-13 members in prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, to assist in re-organizing the Charlotte MS-13 members so that they could better control the drug trade, as well as extort and attack rival gang members in North Carolina.
Additional testimony revealed that on Dec. 8, 2007, while in a restaurant in Greensboro, Umana used a gun to shoot Ruben Garcia Salinas fatally in the chest and Manuel Garcia Salinas in the head after they "disrespected" his gang signs by calling them "fake." Umana fired three more shots as restaurant patrons scurried for cover with one witness running to protect her infant child. One other individual was injured by the gunfire.
According to evidence introduced during the trial, Umana later escaped to Charlotte with the assistance of other MS-13 members, where he was arrested on Dec. 12, 2007 in possession of a loaded Ruger that was later determined to be the murder weapon.
The jury found that, based on the evidence presented at trial and during the penalty phase, Umana shot and killed Ruben Garcia Salinas, a mason, and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas, a bricklayer, in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Umana attempted during his term of pre-trial incarceration to kill witnesses and MS-13 members who had become informants. During the first day of jury selection, during a pat down at the jail prior to sending Umana to the federal courthouse in Charlotte, U.S. Marshals recovered a knife that Umana concealed by attaching to his penis.
Umana was also found by the jury at the sentencing phase to have been responsible for three other murders in Los Angeles. One of these, a double murder, occurred in July 2005 on Fairfax Avenue. The third murder, and injury of two others, occurred at Lemon Grove Park in September 2005.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that the long-term investigation of MS-13 activity in North Carolina was initiated by the FBI's "Safe Streets" task force. Specifically, a witness came forward through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD's Gang of One program and explained how the killings were part of the violent operation of a single MS-13 cell in the Charlotte area.
The investigation of the wide-sweeping enterprise led to the successful federal prosecution of 26 MS-13 members. In addition to Umana, six defendants were convicted at trial in January, and 18 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador.