A Sonoma County detective testified Tuesday that he tipped Santa Rosa gang members to a threat on their lives hours before they went looking for revenge and shot the wrong man.
Sheriff's Det. Brandon Cutting took the stand in the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Christopher "Spider" Mancinas, 30, who's charged along with three others with the mistaken-identity slaying of Vallejo musician Dewey Tucker, 24.
Tucker, who had no gang ties, was a bass player for hip hop singer Lauryn Hill.
Cutting testified that on Jan. 12, 2010, he seized a letter written by a Sonoma County inmate calling for "hits" on four gang rivals and a girlfriend suspected of witnessing another killing.
Fearing there could be violence, Cutting said he went to the homes of at least two of the men mentioned in the letter and warned them they could be in danger, he testified.
"We had an obligation to notify the people," Cutting testified.
One of the men was Hector Barragan, 29, an acknowledged leader of the Angelino Heights sureno gang that was embroiled in a turf war with other surenos in southwest Santa Rosa.
Prosecutors believe once Barragan learned of the threat, he assembled a small group including Mancinas, Javier Carreon-Lopez, 21, and Raul Vega, 20, and traveled to a Vallejo apartment complex in search of retribution.
They believed a man would be there who had killed one of their own several months earlier in an escalation of fighting over control of Southwest Community Park.
When the armed men arrived outside the apartment building that night, they saw a car resembling one driven by their rival pulling out of the driveway, prosecutors said.