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California Cop Killer Suspect Could Face Death Penalty

December 24, 2007  | 

A known gang member charged with the murder of a Tulare County (Calif.) sheriff's deputy could face the death penalty.

Jorge Gomez Banda, 20, is charged with killing Det. Kent Haws, 38. Banda's gang affiliation and the fact that Haws was a peace officer on duty are both special circumstances in California. Banda is charged with murder and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Officials say Haws was on Road 156 Monday night when he spotted Banda. They allege that Banda was attempting to steal a car when Haws intervened. Banda then reportedly ran into an orange grove. Assistant district attorney Don Gallian told the Visalia Times Delta that Banda came back out of the orange grove and shot Haws.

Haws, a married father of three, died later that night in a local hospital.

Banda was arrested shortly after the shooting walking along Road 156 north of the orange grove. Sheriff Bill Whitman told the paper that a handgun was found in Banda's pocket.

Authorities say that Banda has tattoos that indicate he is a Sureño affiliated with the Mexican Mafia.

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