Two men were convicted of murder Thursday in the fatal gang-related shooting of a 9-year-old girl in Anaheim nearly five years ago.
Alfredo Aquino, 24, of Anaheim and Ricardo Cruz, 23, of Buena Park were found guilty of murder and other criminal charges in the Oct. 22, 2014 shooting of Ximena Meza near an apartment complex, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The pair got into a brawl inside a Santa Ana courtroom shortly after being convicted, when Cruz suddenly lunged at Aquino and knocked him down, the Orange County Register reported. They fought on the ground until officers stepped in.
The young girl they killed years earlier was caught in the crossfire and shot once in the chest as she played with her sisters in the front yard of their housing complex, according to authorities. The shooting was reported in the the 2300 block of West Greenacre Avenue about 7:15 p.m.
“I see the dad holding the little girl and he was just screaming … begging to God that she’d live,” one witness, River Hernandez, told KTLA at the time.
Another witness, Marquis Oliver, said she tried to resuscitate the 9-year-old girl.
“I began to give her CPR,” Oliver said. “Her hands were cold, her forehead was cold, but she was still breathing.”
Meza was taken by ambulance to UCI Medical Center in critical condition and later pronounced dead.
Anaheim police have described the neighborhood as being known to have gang activity and prosecutors have since said the shooting was gang-related.
Prosecutors filed murder charges against the two men on Oct. 28, 2014.
In addition to murder, Cruz and Aquino were also convicted Thursday of charges including street terrorism, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of school grounds. Those convictions also include sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and vicarious discharge of a firearm causing death by a gang member.
The two had been previously convicted of felonies in July 2014, including one count each of possession of a prohibited weapon and street terrorism, according to prosecutors.
Each of the men faces up to 40 years to life in state prison. Cruz is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 16 while Aquino is expected to be sentenced on Aug. 30.