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OFFICER TELLS ABOUT NIGHT FELLOW COP DIED.

Byline: EUGENE TONG Staff Writer

Burbank Police Officer Gregory Campbell recalled a hail of gunfire, soft rain and helicopter searchlights as he lay wounded in the same parking lot where fellow Officer David Pavelka was killed by men prosecutors say were connected with the Vineland Boys gang.

``I heard more sounds that I recognized as gunshots going off -- probably 25, 30 rounds ... I could see the rain coming through the (helicopter's) `night sun,''' Campbell said Thursday of the November 2003 shooting.

It was the first day of testimony in the federal racketeering trial of nine alleged members or associates of the Sun Valley street gang.

Prosecutors allege the Vineland Boys, which also ruled parts of Burbank and North Hollywood, is a sophisticated criminal enterprise with national reach and connections to Mexican drug cartels.

Lead defendant Rafael Yepiz and eight others face some 40 charges from a 78-count federal indictment that included violations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, narcotics trafficking, firearms and money laundering.

None of the defendants was charged in Pavelka's slaying. David Garcia, who faces state murder and attempted murder charges for killing the police officer, is not on trial.

Only four attorneys representing defendants offered opening statements, claiming their clients are not directly associated with the Vineland Boys gang.

Defendant Ernesto Mendez's attorney, Gregory Nicolaysen, warned jurors that some of the prosecution's witnesses are biased because they are testifying in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

Campbell, now a Burbank police detective, said he was out patrolling Nov. 15, 2003, at the Ramada Inn on Hollywood Way and San Fernando Boulevard when he spotted in the parking lot a black Cadillac Escalade with no license plates and two occupants, driver Ramon Aranda and passenger Garcia.

``There was the smell of burnt marijuana,'' he said.

As Campbell confronted Aranda, Pavelka arrived. Aranga then got out of the car, turned around and started shooting.

``We exchanged gunfire within about five feet,'' Campbell said. ``I recalled yelling out `Gun!' ... I got out two rounds.''

Campbell was shot twice -- one bullet damaged his spinal cord and left him deaf in his right ear. Aranda was shot and killed.

Garcia also got out of the car, firing a gun at Pavelka. According to testimony from police Detective Charles Howell, 33 shots were fired by Garcia and Aranda, Pavelka fired eight and Campbell two. Prosecutors earlier said Pavelka was shot 14 times.

Police Officer Jeff Lamoreaux testified that he arrived at the scene to find Pavelka face-down in a pool of blood. He used a coat to try to stop his leg from bleeding.

``I told him to keep fighting,'' Lamoreaux said. ``I was here to help you.''

Prosecutors also paraded before the jury rifles and handguns linked to the Pavelka shooting, a hotel security camera video that showed Pavelka falling over behind his patrol car and Garcia apparently fleeing, plus a football recovered from the Escalade with the initials ``VBS'' - which witnesses said stands for the Vineland Boys. Prosecutors said the gang was formed in the 1980s by members of a high school football team.

eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 25, 2006
Words:522
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