Local News

Thursday, Feb 28 2013 11:26 AM

Defendant sentenced to 50 years to life for 2010 murder

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A defendant found guilty of murder in the shooting death of a Mercado Latino security guard was sentenced Thursday to 50 years to life in prison.

Jesus Aragon was convicted Sept. 20 in connection with the death of Francisco Flores, who had worked for more than three years as a reserve deputy before leaving the Kern County Sheriff's Office in 2005. Flores, 34, had also spent time as an extra-help deputy.

Prosecutor David Zulfa said relatives of Flores view Aragon's sentencing as just one piece of justice as there are still two suspects at large. Zulfa said the search for those suspects -- Jose Torres and Juan Vasquez -- is ongoing.

Aragon was one of the shooters, and physical evidence suggests there was more than one person who opened fire, Zulfa said.

Aragon's attorney, Ralph R. Rios, could not be reached for comment.

The events leading up to the July 18, 2010 shooting began about 8 p.m. when several men, including Aragon, bothered patrons at the Tacos Los Amigos restaurant in the Mercado Latino plaza on Edison Highway. Deputies said Flores was among the security guards who told the men to leave.

The men became angry with the guards, and one of them implied he had a gun, deputies said. The men then left, but returned about an hour later.

Security was again notified, and Flores began walking out of the courtyard area to confront the men, deputies said. They shot Flores, who was pronounced dead at 9:53 p.m. at Kern Medical Center.

Aragon was identified as one of the shooters by a woman who had been dining in Tacos Los Amigos, according to reports filed in court. She recognized him from dances held at the plaza, and picked him out of a photo lineup.

Aragon was arrested in August 2010 by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies on narcotics charges and was transported to Kern County for trial.

The reports say a total of 29 shell casings were recovered from the scene. Sheriff's officials have said there was no indication that Flores' former status with the sheriff's office had anything to do with the killing.

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