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    13-year sentence ordered for man in Santa Ana gang killing of innocent bystander
    • June 13, 2024

    SANTA ANA — A 27-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison for his part in the fatal gang-related shooting of a 36-year-old innocent bystander who was going out to buy food for dinner for his family in Santa Ana.

    Felix Martinez Vargas of Santa Ana pleaded guilty in September 2022 to voluntary manslaughter in the Dec. 1, 2017, killing of 36-year-old Mariano Labra Ramos of Santa Ana. Vargas has been in custody since Dec. 2, 2017.

    As part of his plea deal, a charge of murder was dismissed along with sentencing enhancement for being a gang member’s vicarious discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury.

    Co-defendant Alexis Ascencion, 25, of Santa Ana, was sentenced in April to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing. Ascencion was convicted Feb. 15 of first-degree murder and participating in gang activity, with special circumstances of gang activity and sentencing enhancements for discharge of a gun causing death.

    Vargas testified in Ascencion’s trials in July 2022 and this year. A mistrial was declared in the first trial when jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt.

    Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King tacked on an additional 25 years to life in prison to the life without parole punishment for Ascencion.

    “It was a payback,” King said of the attack.

    The judge said Ascencion drove into rival gang territory and randomly selected a victim.

    “He picked someone out with no prior association (to the gang),” King said. “He shot him intentionally and as a result that person died.”

    “There was just no justification” for the killing, King said, adding that it “was an aggravated case.”

    The judge said the shooting was done “to show strength of his gang” and was a “senseless act of violence.”

    Ramos “was going out to get salt to make dinner for his wife, who was blind,” King said.

    The couple had a “healthy marriage” and he was the main provider, the judge said.

    The defendants — which included two boys, ages 15 and 16 — drove into rival gang territory when they saw two men in front of an apartment complex between 1913 and 1909 W. Myrtle St., according to a trial brief from prosecutors in Ascencion’s case. Ascencion asked Vargas, the driver, to stop before Ascencion jumped out and opened fire on the victim, wounding him in the leg with two shots, prosecutors said.

    A main artery was struck and Ramos, who had no gang ties, bled to death, prosecutors said.

    Ascencion ran back to the car and they fled the area, prosecutors said.

    Police found the vehicle involved in the shooting just before 9 p.m. that night and stopped the driver.

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    ​ Orange County Register