SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A gang member who stabbed a partially paralyzed man 19 times after issuing a gang challenge to the victim on a southeast San Diego street was sentenced Thursday to 15 years to life in state prison.
Josue Hernandez Gutierrez, a documented 21-year-old gang member, pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder. He admitted that on Feb. 18, 2012, he fatally stabbed 48-year-old Emiliano Cortez of San Diego, who, according to Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha, was not a gang member.
The prosecutor said Gutierrez and a 14-year-old boy attacked the victim about 4:45 a.m. that day as he was walking in the 3700 block of T Street, south of Mountain View, about a half-mile from where he lived with relatives. Gutierrez issued a gang challenge and told authorities that Cortez responded that he was from a rival gang. The defendant then stabbed the victim 19 times, including 10 times in the back, according to the prosecutor.
Gutierrez said drugs played a part in the murder and that he blacked out, but Judge Peter Deddeh wasn't buying the defendant's story.
"You picked on some crippled guy," the judge told the defendant. "Gangsters prey on the vulnerable."
Cortez's siblings -- a sister and two brothers -- wanted to know why Gutierrez had to kill their brother.
They said the victim was well-liked in the neighborhood but was very slow afoot after having a stroke.
One brother, Jesus Cortez, told the judge that it was not fair for Gutierrez to keep living because his brother was murdered.
According to evidence presented at a preliminary hearing last year, the defendant and the 14-year-old were in the street after being dropped off from a party when they encountered the victim.
After Cortez answered the defendant's gang challenge, the 14-year-old punched the victim a couple of times before Gutierrez began stabbing him, according to Trocha.
The victim -- who had partial paralysis, according to his family -- stumbled after being punched and tried to defend himself while being stabbed, the prosecutor said.
Residents of the area where the killing happened told investigators that a loud argument and a man's screams prompted them to look outside, at which point they saw someone lying on the sidewalk and two people running off to the east.
Gutierrez was arrested two days later outside a friend's home in the College area. The 14-year-old was taken into custody three days after the killing in Chula Vista. He pleaded guilty to an assault charge in Juvenile Court and testified for the prosecution at Gutierrez' trial.
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