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Venice park shooting survivor identifies reputed gang member gunman at trial

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By Paul Chavez
Venice Dispatch

A former Venice High School student who survived a June 2011 shooting at Penmar Park confirmed the identity of the reputed gang member gunman Tuesday during testimony in the double-homicide trial.

Christian Hernandez, 21, testified at Los Angeles Airport Courthouse against Michael Anthony Mariscal, 22, who has been charged with two counts of murder with the special circumstances of multiple murder and to benefit a gang.

Prosecutors allege that Mariscal on June 22, 2011, about 4 p.m. fired on a group of teens sitting in bleachers waiting to play basketball, killing Venice High School sophomore Alan Mateo and Venice Skills Center sophomore Salvador Diaz Jr., both 18.

Hernadez was shot in the leg in the attack and confirmed his identification of Mariscal to the jury of eight men and seven women plus alternates during testimony before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Antonio Barreto Jr.

Hernandez was the second eyewitness since the trial started Thursday to identify Mariscal as the gunman in the brazen broad daylight shooting.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attonrey Eugene Hanrahan of the Hardcore Gang Division presented eyewitness Maritza Perez on Friday who identified Mariscal as the gunman and also provided police with a valuable clue that helped lead to his arrest.

Perez, a softball player, testified that she was driving up to the park when she heard gunshots and saw people running.

During questioning by Hanrahan, Perez testified that she saw Mariscal through her windshield holding a black handgun up about shoulder level as he walked backward from the bleachers.

Perez was heard in her 911 that was played for the jury calmly describing the incident to a dispatcher as pandemonium broke out. She testified that a woman with her toddler hid behind her car as parkgoers fled the shooting scene.

She testified that Mariscal ran around some parked RVs and climbed into a waiting silver Volkswagen that drove away.

Perez told the court that she couldn’t find a pen so she used a highlighter to write down a partial license plate on her driver’s side window as the car drove away.

She also confirmed her previous identifications of Mariscal in police photo lineups during her testimony.

The partial license plate helped lead investigators to Mariscal who was arrested a few days after the shooting and charged June 30, 2011 with multiple counts including one count of street terrorism and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Prosecutors allege that Mariscal was an active member of the Culver City Boyz street gang at the time of crime and he has been held without bail since his arrest.

Mariscal originally was charged with capital murder that could have brought a death sentence if convicted, but prosecutors were seeking a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Deputy Public Defender Victor Escobedo during his cross-examination of Hernandez revisited preliminary hearing testimony in which Hernandez seemed unsure about his identification of Mariscal.

Hanrahan gained testimony from Hernandez confirming his earlier identification of Mariscal in court as well as in police photo lineups.

Los Angeles Police Officer Clifford Proctor of the Pacific Division testified Friday that he and his partner were the first to respond to the scene of the shooting.

Proctor testified that he first came across Hernandez at the bleachers suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg and in severe pain.

His partner motioned him over and Proctor testifed that he then saw Diaz lying on the ground receiving CPR and then someone shouted there was another victim.

Proctor said he then found Mateo suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper torso and gasping for breath.

Mateo was later pronounced dead at a hospital and Proctor testified that a distraught Hernandez “kept calling out Alan’s name.”

Hernandez said outside of court after his testimony that he has nearly recovered from his wounds and was enrolled in college.

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