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San Francisco gang member who murdered 19-year-old gets 22 years in prison

The Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Ave.
The Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Ave. | Source: Google Maps

A federal judge sentenced a San Francisco gang member to more than two decades behind bars for his role in the 2018 fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man.

United States District Judge Vince Chhabria sentenced 34-year-old Jose Aguilar last week to 22 years in prison for killing Gerson Romero in a gang retaliation shooting in San Francisco's Excelsior neighborhood.

Aguilar was the second suspect to be sentenced in the case.

His co-defendant, Jonathan Escobar, 24, of Richmond, was ordered on June 28 to spend 26 years in prison, according to federal court records.

A federal grand jury indicted both men in April 2021. They have remained jailed since their arrests, according to authorities.

Escobar pleaded guilty on April 5 to his role in the shooting, and Aguilar did the same on May 3, prosecutors said.

As part of his plea agreement, Aguilar admitted his affiliation with the Lower Mission District Sureños.

He said the group is made up of two gangs in the Mission, which claim a territory between 19th and 16th streets, and said that the groups operated as a "racketeering enterprise" that aimed to control territory through drug-dealing and robbery.

Court documents indicate that the Sureño and MS-13 gangs operate along the Mission Street corridor from 16th to 20th streets, while their rivals, the Norteños, control territory along the 24th Street corridor.

The rivalry has spawned many homicides in the area, according to local law enforcement. Both gangs have also found themselves at the center of various federal RICO cases in recent years.

According to federal prosecutors, Aguilar also admitted the fatal shooting came in response to an earlier drive-by shooting and that both he and Escobar believed Romero and his friends were rival gang members. Three others were injured during the shooting.

Both Aguilar and Escobar continued to shoot at Romero even after he fell to the ground, according to Aguilar's plea agreement.

U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said the sentence should send a message to criminal enterprises.

"We will not surrender the streets of San Francisco to violent street gangs," he said in a media release. "Gang violence will not lead to personal profit. To the contrary: where appropriate we will seek severe, impactful sentences, such as the decades-long one imposed here."