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Friday, 26 September 2008

Armando Jose Rodriguez alleged local leader in the Norteños and may have decided which of the gang's enemies would be targeted for violence.

Armando Jose Rodriguez, 32, was shot Tuesday at 1:48 p.m. as he was visiting someone near a food truck on Illinois Street between 24th and 25th streets, an industrial area. The gunman shot Rodriguez several times, then ran down the block to a white Ford Mustang driven by another suspect, investigators said. Police have made no arrests and have given only a vague description of the killer.Police sources said Rodriguez was a local leader in the Norteños and may have decided which of the gang's enemies would be targeted for violence. Police say they are gearing up in the Mission District and elsewhere for possible gang retaliatory attacks in response to his killing.The Norteños, or northerners, are based in Northern California and have ties to the Nuestra Familia prison gang. Their main rivals, the Sureños, or southerners, were originally based in Southern California and grew out of another prison gang, the Mexican Mafia.The Mission District, where the Norteños and Sureños are concentrated locally, has been the scene of eight homicides since the beginning of August. Police believe that several of those killings were the result of warfare among Latino gangs. After three men were fatally shot the evening of Sept. 4, police increased the number of beat officers on Mission Street and added car patrols to other parts of the neighborhood.Rodriguez, known as "Chappo," was free on bond stemming from a drug case filed last year, court records show. San Francisco narcotics officers and federal agents raided a home on Revere Street in May 2007, found a marijuana-growing operation and arrested Rodriguez and three other men.
Rodriguez's attorney in the case, John Runfola, had no comment Thursday about his client's slaying.Around the time of the San Francisco raid, authorities searched a home in Vacaville where Rodriguez was living with his wife. Offices allegedly found a gun there, prompting federal prosecutors to file charges against him.Rodriguez could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison under federal law had he been found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had a felony accessory conviction stemming from a 2001 bar fight and stabbing on Cortland Avenue, police said. That case was originally charged as an attempted murder, but was resolved with the lesser charge.Rodriguez also had a conviction for being a felon in possession of ammunition, records show. That felony charge grew out of the May 2007 raids in San Francisco and Vacaville. Members of Rodriguez's family have declined to talk about his killing. His defense lawyer in the federal case, Randy Montesano, said Rodriguez had jobs and was married, with children, and was never accused in court of being associated with any gang.Montesano called the federal weapons case against Rodriguez "marginal," saying his client did not have the long felony rap sheet typical of people charged under the weapons possession law.
He called Rodriguez a "stand-up guy" who was "very respectful, polite, courteous."
"It's unbelievable," Montesano said of Rodriguez's killing. "I don't know whether he got caught up in something."

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