In a packed, steamy courtroom, the widow and mother of three slain family members sat and wept Monday as the alleged MS-13 gang member accused of gunning them down stood trial for murder.
Danielle Bologna, dressed in black with dark sunglasses, broke down when prosecutor Harry Dorfman’s opening statement told jurors how, on a narrow Excelsior district street on June 22, 2008, a car driven by Edwin Ramos pulled alongside her husband’s vehicle and shots rang out, killing him and two of their sons. A third son in the car ducked and survived.
Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, were killed in response to an earlier shooting that day of another gang member by rival Norteños, Dorfman said.
“These were mistaken-identity murders,” he said.
The surviving son is expected to testify in the trial that Ramos first blocked the Bolognas’ car at an intersection and then, from possibly inches away, glared at his father, pulled out a handgun and opened fire.
Ramos, 25, is facing three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and gang allegations that could bring a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Ramos has denied the charges, and said a passenger in his car was the gunman.
The opening of the trial was accompanied by high security both inside and outside the courtroom. Ramos was neatly dressed in a dark suit and yellow shirt, as the audience watched from behind bulletproof glass.
“The government and MS-13 made Edwin Ramos the fall guy for the shooting of these three people,” Ramos’ attorney, Marla Zamora, told jurors. Zamora questioned whether police made a strong effort to find Wilfredo Reyes, a leader of the gang who she said fired the shots from the passenger seat without warning, much to Ramos’ surprise.
“He is just as shocked as anybody could be,” Zamora said of Ramos’ reaction that day. She questioned the reliability of gang informants expected to testify for the prosecution. She said the informants disliked Ramos and were responsible for murders and other violence.
She also indicated that Ramos himself may take the stand.
Dorfman said he would present evidence to the jury during the months-long trial about Ramos’ earlier run-ins with police; his gang ties; and records of phone calls on June 22, 2008, between Ramos and gang members, both at the time of the MS-13 member’s shooting and leading up to the Bologna slayings.
“Retaliation is part of the gang culture,” Dorfman said.
Zamora said Ramos came to this country from El Salvador when he was a young child and joined MS-13 after he ran away from home, but left the gang in 2006.
Timeline of Ramos case
- June 22, 2008 Anthony Bologna, 48, and two of his sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, are fatally shot in their car in the Excelsior district.
- June 25, 2008 Edwin Ramos, then 21, is arrested and charged with three counts of murder.
- June 29, 2009 A judge rules after a two-week preliminary hearing there is sufficient evidence to hold Ramos for trial.
- Feb. 22, 2010 A judge dismisses a Bologna family lawsuit in Superior Court alleging The City is liable for the murders for failing to deport Ramos, who was in the country illegally, after previous arrests.
- Jan. 3, 2012 Jury selection in Ramos case begins. He faces three counts of murder, plus attempted murder and a gang allegation.
- Jan. 23, 2012 Trial begins