Triple homicide a case of mistaken identity


Anthony "Tony" Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, were found shot to death in their car the afternoon of June 22.

Three days later, police arrested 21-year-old Edwin Ramos, of El Sobrante, who authorities believe to be a member of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a street gang with El Salvadoran origins.

Spokespeople for the police department have previously called the shooting a "traffic altercation."

However, police homicide Lt. Mike Stasko said this morning at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee that "we know it's gang-related" and that the victims "were targeted" because they looked like Hispanic males, and the boys had short hair and were wearing baseball caps sideways. They "may have been mistaken" as rival gang members, he said.

"It had nothing to do with road rage," Stasko asserted.

Prosecutors have charged Ramos, who is being held on a no-bail status, with three counts of murder and multiple special allegations, including that the crime was committed in furtherance of a criminal street gang.

Ramos' attorney Robert Amparan claims his client is neither responsible for the shootings nor a gang member.

Members of the Bologna family have asked for the death penalty in the case, but District Attorney Kamala Harris has previously pledged not to do so during her tenure as the city's top prosecutor.

Ramos, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is due back in court for a hearing on Wednesday.

Stasko spoke during a hearing on crime and violence prevention measures in the city.

Among the grim statistics presented, a few offered glimmers of progress.

Stasko told the committee that the city has had 58 homicides so far this year, down from 65 at the same time in 2007. A total of 98 homicides were recorded in all of 2007.

The overall number of shootings citywide is also down from last year, he said.

In addition, some improvement was seen in the number of illegal firearms seized by police this year, up from 540 in the first six months of 2007 to 591 through June of this year, according to Stasko.

Stasko also told the committee that the MS-13 gang's takeover of certain parts of the city's Mission District might be responsible for recent increases in violence in that area.

"It's being addressed," Stasko told the committee, but he declined to elaborate on ongoing operations.

In an effort to help combat the ongoing violence, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice recently initiated a citywide anti-violence campaign, posting on city billboards and buses, and has set up a rewards program of up to $1,000 for information leading to the seizure of illegal firearms and/or the arrest of those who possess them.

The city also has a rewards program of up to $250,000 for information on homicides, but Stasko said today that only one award -- for $20,000 -- has been handed out since 2000 in connection with the program.

Stasko told the committee that in his opinion, as a 37-year veteran of the police force, the rewards program was not as central to solving crimes as having citizens simply willing to come forward out of concern for the community.

"I think a lot of people now, are just doing the right thing," said Stasko.

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