Valley News -

Opening statements due in San Jacinto gang member's death penalty trial


Last updated 10/15/2018 at 9:45am

INDIO - Opening statements are scheduled on Monday, Oct. 15 in the death penalty trial of a documented gang member who allegedly opened fire on seven people outside a San Jacinto home, killing one.

Salvador Venegas, 36, is accused in the Feb. 5, 2014, killing of Runar Claus, 37, of Hemet, who was shot in the driveway of a San Jacinto home where he was talking outside with a group of friends.

Venegas and an unidentified second person allegedly approached the group, asked "Where you from?'' -- a typical gang challenge -- then began firing on the group before anyone could answer, according to a prosecutor's trial brief. Claus was struck in the abdomen and taken to Hemet Valley Hospital, where he later died.

Venegas is charged with one count of murder, six counts of attempted murder, four counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and a special circumstance allegation of committing the murder to benefit a criminal street gang. The special circumstance allegation made Venegas eligible for the death penalty and in 2015, Riverside County prosecutors opted to pursue capital punishment against him.

Venegas was arrested in Hemet about three weeks after the killing following a short pursuit of a vehicle in which he was a passenger.

Investigators said Venegas could be placed at the shooting scene through data recovered from a GPS ankle monitor, which he was required to wear as part of a bail agreement stemming from a gun possession case.

A criminal complaint also alleges that Venegas was previously convicted in 2000 of attempted murder in a case out of Los Angeles County. That conviction resulted in Venegas being sentenced to 15 years and four months in state prison.


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