There was no plan for the two Latino street gangs to face off in a hotel parking lot in Fairfax County early one Sunday in April. They simply bumped into each other while holding separate parties, sparks flew and then fists.
When fists weren't enough, there was a gun.
Nineteen-year-old Christian J. Aranzana-Vasquez, apparently a member of the increasingly popular South Side Locos gang, was shot dead. Three members of a rival gang called La Primera were charged in the case, including Wilfredo A. Guzman, 21, who was found guilty of gang participation yesterday.
Members of both gangs apparently had booked rooms at the Days Inn at 6100 Richmond Hwy. Gang experts say South Side Locos has grown in just three years to perhaps 400 members, the second-largest regional gang after Mara Salvatrucha, which reportedly has 1,500 members in Fairfax alone. Both groups take their names from Salvadoran gangs in Los Angeles, and police believe the local South Side Locos chapter was started by a disgruntled former Mara Salvatrucha member.
La Primera is a smaller, multiracial gang, police say. Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ian M. Rodway said the group was confined mainly to the southeast section of the county, involved mostly in vandalism and firing guns. He characterized members as "on the fringes."
Members of both La Primera and South Side Locos happened to be having small parties at the Days Inn the morning of April 4. About 4:30 a.m., a confrontation erupted in the parking lot, Rodway told Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush.
Aranzana-Vasquez was involved, as were La Primera members Donnie A. Barnes, 19, and Guzman, the prosecutor said. Barnes and Aranzana-Vasquez began swinging at each other, and Guzman "was either participating in the fight, or trying to keep people away," Rodway said.
Barnes then yelled out, "C, yo, take care of this," Rodway said witnesses recounted. He said "C" was Cory J. Wilkins, 22, another member of La Primera.
"What Cory Wilkins does is to walk over and shoot [Aranzana-Vasquez] in the chest," Rodway said.
Aranzana-Vasquez was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he later died. His was the first gang-related homicide of the year in Fairfax. The following month, Jose Sandoval, a 17-year-old member of another Latino street gang, 18th Street, was shot dead in Herndon, apparently by a member of Mara Salvatrucha. No arrests have been made in that case.
No one has been charged with murder in Aranzana-Vasquez's case, and police said they were investigating. The members involved were all from the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax. Barnes pleaded guilty last week to participating in a street gang, and Guzman yesterday entered an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. He and Barnes face up to 10 years in prison. Wilkins has been charged but not arrested.
David M. Hall, Guzman's attorney, told the judge that Guzman's role "was one of keeping people away, to keep people from coming into the battle. He had no advance knowledge that this man was going to be shot; it was completely unexpected."
Guzman, a Salvadoran immigrant, said he was a construction worker and waiter. He told the judge he entered his plea "because the evidence is just against me that I was there. I feel that I can't beat the case."