By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
Anthony Bologna and his sons Michael, Matthew, and Andrew had been on their way home from a visit to Anthony's sister's house near Fairfield. They were almost at their driveway when the shots were fired. Anthony, Michael, and Matthew were killed. Miraculously, 17-year-old Andrew was uninjured. He'd seen a chrome handgun rise up beside the driver's chest and he ducked down, seconds before bullets shattered the window. He tearfully told the cops at the scene what he saw: charcoal Chrysler 300 ... driver holding the gun ... Latin-looking ... "just some random guy."
By Tuesday, not 48 hours after the murders, police got their first big break. Douglas Largaespada, an MS-13 member in custody for a recent stabbing, reached out to Inspector Tom Newland. Largaespada said he knew an MS-13 guy with a charcoal Chrysler 300, and passed along Ramos' home address in El Sobrante. That night officers stormed the house and arrested him.
By 4:30 a.m., Ramos was locked in an interrogation room. For 11 hours, Ramos denied everything. What a coincidence he had the same car, he told the cops. At 3:30 p.m., though, they cracked him. He admitted he was driving the car, but, he quickly added, the triggerman was Wilfredo Reyes, in the passenger seat. Ramos claimed he had no idea Reyes was going to shoot those people. Ramos had been lying to the interrogators, he told them, because he feared Reyes would go after his family if he snitched.
The press conference came three hours later. We got the guy, District Attorney Kamala Harris declared. Soon prosecutors had a narrative: Ramos had mistaken the Bologna family for rival gang members and killed them in retaliation for the earlier shooting. People were outraged and stunned by the cold-blooded and random nature of the crime, which seemed to embody the public's fears about gangs. Months later, public anger crested when the Chronicle reported that Ramos, an undocumented immigrant, had not been deported after his 2004 attempted robbery conviction because of the city's "sanctuary" policy that protected undocumented juveniles. Mayor Gavin Newsom frantically amended the law. At that point, the public and the media had not yet learned that Ramos had not entered the country illegally, but rather had failed to renew a 10-year visa he was granted in 2000. He had become the poster boy for all that was wrong with this limousine liberal city. He had to pay.
With the full weight of public righteousness landing on Ramos, it was easy to forget about the crime's conspicuously missing piece. Ramos' defense team clamored that Reyes was the actual shooter (the murder weapon was never found). And so the SFPD sought to question Reyes about his involvement in the murders.
While Harris didn't have enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant or file charges against Reyes, plenty of circumstantial facts implicated him: Three witnesses at the scene told police that they saw multiple people in the Chrysler; phone records showed that Reyes communicated with Ramos in the minutes before the Bologna murders; cell tower data suggested that Reyes was in the area of the homicide when it occurred; and, as Ramos' defense team would later ask, would Ramos really have been able to aim a gun with his right hand while navigating a tight turn with his left? Would he have orchestrated a drive-by shooting in his brand-new car?
But over the next four years, it seemed as if San Francisco law enforcement barely bothered to look for Reyes. Leads went unfollowed, dots unconnected. Fifteen months after the murders, in September 2009, two San Francisco policemen even flew across the country, into Reyes' original hometown, to extradite an MS-13 member Reyes was rooming with. There, documents proving Reyes' location lay untouched and people with knowledge of his whereabouts were not questioned.
"Just doesn't sound right," says Bill Flynn, a retired detective who commanded the Los Angeles County Major Crimes Task Force and has served as an expert witness on police procedures. "I would definitely say they could have had this guy in custody back in September 2009."
So when police finally nabbed Reyes and charged him as a co-conspirator in July 2012, a month after Ramos had been sentenced to 183 years in prison without the possibility of parole, the speculation hardened.
"[Law enforcement officials] were not looking to catch the right guy," says Myron Moskovitz, a professor at Golden Gate University School of Law. "These guys were looking for a conviction of Edwin Ramos."
Ramos' defense team alleges that city authorities did not go harder after Reyes because catching him might have complicated the high-profile case against Ramos. The DA's office adamantly denies this, noting that they would have been more than happy to prosecute two murder suspects at the same time. (SFPD declined to comment for this story, citing its policy regarding pending cases.)
Back in June 2008, though, the hunt for Reyes began well enough. Almost immediately after Ramos rolled on Reyes, police placed a hold on his passport and crafted an "Attempt to Locate" flier. Officers notified the LAPD (Reyes used to live in the Los Angeles area and had family there) and the San Mateo Police Department Gang Task Force (Reyes had an apartment in Burlingame). Surveillance teams staked out his workplace and his girlfriend's house.