Three admitted gang members get life sentences for murder

Three admitted gang members were given potential life sentences in prison last week in San Mateo County Superior Court as part of a multi-year investigation launched in 2012 known as “Operation Sunny Day.”

Roberto Gabriel Bustos-Montes, 27, and 23-year-old Eric Valencia Vargas were both sentenced Thursday to 60-years-to-life in prison.

Bustos-Montes had pleaded no contest to the first-degree murders of Stoney Gipson and Lamont Coleman, as well as the attempted murder of Dwayne Henry. He also had one prior prison term.

Vargas pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Gipson, the attempted murder of Marquise Brock and conspiracy to murder Chariece Chew as well as felony reckless discharge of a firearm and violence against an arresting police officer.

Emmanuel Imani Hyland, 28, was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison. He pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of Jonathan Alcazar and Coleman.

All three defendants are admitted gang members who were being held on no bail status.

A fourth defendant, 31-year-old Raymond Louis Bradford, was previously sentenced to 80-years-to-life in prison. He’d pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Alcazar, conspiracy to murder Chew and attempted murder of Henry.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe described the sentencing hearing as long, saying that numerous family members addressed the court.

Hyland and Bustos-Montes both apologized for their conduct, but didn’t delve into the details as some of their associates still have trials pending, according to Wagstaffe.

“As my prosecutors said, that shows they haven’t left the gang mentality,” Wagstaffe said. “They didn’t want to talk about what they did for fear it might hurt their fellow gang members, so their apologies ring hollow.”

Vargas still has an attempted murder case set for trial in May 2018, and there are a number of other cases still pending as part of Operation Sunny Day, which started as a collaboration with the East Palo Alto Police Department, according to Wagstaffe.

“Thus far it’s been dramatically successful in accomplishing our goal, which was to get some very violent offenders responsible for murders, attempted murders and shootings off the street,” Wagstaffe said. “Many citizens I’ve talked to have told me that since these people have been swept off the streets they notice less violence and a safer community.”

Defense attorneys for Bradford, Vargas, Hyland and Bustos-Montes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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