By Erin Sherbert
By Howard Cole
By Erin Sherbert
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By Leif Haven
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By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
Following up with the names listed in the car theft police report, O'Brien met with Denise. He showed her a picture of Reyes. "Yeah, that's David," she told him. She volunteered that he had discussed the shooting. She offered up dark details, which she would later repeat in testimony. On the stand, she would say that she had twice seen Reyes with a gun. She would tell a story about the time a stripper Reyes was seeing threw a beer can at him. Furious, Reyes allegedly grabbed his friend's gun, saying he was going to blast the girl for disrespecting him. Friends had to snatch the weapon away from him. He had been snorting cocaine, Denise would recollect, and he was a different, more unpredictable person when he was on coke.
O'Brien was hoping to meet "Samuel Carrillo," because, as Medrano's roommate, Carrillo probably knew Reyes. (Duncan police did not cooperate with O'Brien, so he did not know about the fake ID.) He visited multiple addresses for that name, but he couldn't find Carrillo. At one of those residences, an apartment building, he ran into a young boy walking by the swimming pool. He showed the boy Reyes' picture; the boy said that the man in the photo had played soccer with him in a grassy expanse at the complex.
Mining for more clues from the car theft investigation, O'Brien called Spartanburg County prosecutor Daniel Cude, who referenced the package of videos and photos that Teal had mailed to San Francisco. O'Brien was shocked. This was the first time Ramos' defense team had heard about these images.
Now, O'Brien had documented proof that Reyes had been in Greenville, and he had a witness willing to testify that Reyes admitted involvement in the murders.
Denise, whose last name was not publicly disclosed for her protection, testified in March. That same month, three years and nine months after charging Ramos, the DA's office issued an arrest warrant for Reyes, though prosecutors will not say what specific information triggered the action.
"The question with prosecuting Reyes," says Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian, "was whether we could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, independent of Edwin Ramos' self-serving statements. We obtained that information this year and acted on it immediately."
Had San Francisco police contacted Denise in September 2009, there's a good chance the city would have had its probable cause against Reyes two and a half years earlier. Instead, when Ramos took the stand in his own defense, he appeared to be blaming the murders on a ghost.
On July 9, 2012, the SFPD, with help from federal immigration agents and local sheriff's deputies, burst into a house in Salisbury, N.C., and arrested Wilfredo "Flaco" Reyes as he tried to escape through a window. The SFPD said officers were acting on a tip from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Reyes' roommate was undocumented).
"This individual will have to answer for the vicious crimes committed against the Bologna family in a San Francisco courthouse," proclaimed District Attorney George Gascón.
Zamora maintains that the timing of the arrest was suspicious: After four years of searching, police found Reyes just weeks after Ramos' trial had concluded. She argues that arresting and charging Reyes in 2009 or 2010, midway through Ramos' prosecution, would have undermined the reliability of Andrew Bologna's eyewitness testimony that the driver pulled the trigger and given credibility to Ramos' side of the story.
"There wasn't a lot of political pressure to really investigate Reyes," says O'Brien. "The political pressure was to get Edwin Ramos."
Prosecuting Reyes during the Ramos proceedings, however, might not have changed Ramos' fate. Peter Keane, a professor at Golden Gate University School of Law who used to work in the city's Public Defender's office, as well as two other law professors SF Weekly spoke with, agree that prosecuting Reyes earlier wouldn't have necessarily hurt the case against Ramos.
"It would have strengthened Ramos' argument that it was this second guy," says Keane. "It's hard to say if that would have made any difference."
Indeed, Ramos got his life sentence, although the jury was not convinced he was the shooter. Jurors hung on the "discharge of a firearm" count. Their belief that he was at least a co-conspirator was enough for the first-degree murder conviction.
Gascón charged Reyes with first-degree murder, as well as aiding and abetting in the discharge of a fireman at an occupied vehicle, among various other counts. He pleaded not guilty. That Reyes was not charged with firing the gun indicates that prosecutors are sticking with their narrative from the Ramos case, that the driver pulled the trigger. We may never know who really held the gun that day.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Reyes stood before a judge for a status update, one of the many unremarkable hearings that mark the wind-up to a trial. Like every other inmate who entered the courtroom that day, Reyes wore an orange sweater and orange sweatpants, steel shackles around his wrists. In the sparsely filled viewing benches behind him, indifferent strangers looked down at papers or whispered to each other about traffic tickets and probation officers.