LANCASTER – Opening statements were delivered Tuesday in the trial of two brothers charged in a 2013 car-to-car shooting in Palmdale that killed a 7-year-old girl.
Jesus Alberto Peralta, 24, and Carlos Peralta, 21, are each charged with shooting at an occupied vehicle and premeditated murder in connection with the death of Desirae Macias, who was shot in the head while riding in her family’s vehicle. The Peralta brothers are additionally charged with three counts of attempted murder relating to the girl’s family members. The criminal case includes gun and gang allegations.
According to Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Chung, the confrontation that triggered the car-to-car shooting began around 12:40 a.m. Sept. 4, 2013, at a gas station near Fort Tejon Road and Pearblossom Highway – an area commonly referred to as “Four Points.”
During his opening statement Tuesday, the prosecutor played for the jury a surveillance video clip from the Mobil gas station. In narrating the silent video, Chung said Jesus Peralta pulled up to the gas station in a Ford F-150, with his brother, Carlos, in the passenger seat and a friend, Eduardo Diaz, in the rear seat. Soon after, a car pulled up driven by Lorena Ibarra, with her boyfriend, Brandon Castellano, in the passenger seat, and her two young daughters, including Desirae, in the rear seat, Chung said.
The evidence would show that Jesus and Carlos Peralta confronted Castellano with a gang challenge at the gas station, and then Carlos Peralta lifted his shirt to reveal a semi-automatic handgun, according to Chung. Castellano backed away from the confrontation, while Lorena Ibarra “kept yelling out, ‘I got kids in the car,’” Chung told the jury.
The video evidence shows the Peralta brothers walking over to the family’s car, and Castellano spraying both men with pepper spray before the family’s vehicle pulls away, Chung said. With Jesus Peralta behind the wheel, the brothers chased the family’s vehicle through residential streets in Palmdale while firing several rounds at the vehicle, Chung said.
During his opening statement, the prosecutor also played for the jury a portion of the recorded 9-1-1 call he said was made as the family was trying to get away.
The audio clip began with a frantic voice telling the operator, “They’re some Hispanic guys shooting at us…” And then later, “They shot her! They shot her!” – with voices screaming and wailing in the background.
The family didn’t realize Desirae had been hit until they made it home, according to Chung.
“A bullet had entered in the back of her head,” Chung said.
The evidence would show that the defendants got in a vehicle, pursued the victims for about 2.2 miles and fired several rounds at a car containing a family, Chung said. He urged the jury to find Jesus and Carlos Peralta guilty of the premeditated murder of Desirae and the attempted murder of everyone else in the car.
But defense attorney Robert Nadler said the surveillance video, when played in its entirety, would show a lot more than what the prosecution was attempting to portray. During his opening statement Tuesday, the defense attorney for Jesus Peralta painted Brandon Castellano as the instigator of the confrontation that sparked the shooting.
The video evidence would show Castellano getting out of the family’s car with “a swagger” and then approaching the Peralta brothers in a confrontational manner, Nadler told the jury. The video shows Castellano, at one point, putting his hand behind his back “almost as if he’s got something,” Nadler said.
According to Nadler, the video, when viewed in its entirety, shows Jesus Peralta walking away from Castellano and motioning for Castellano to leave.
But “Brandon Castellano keeps talking,” Nadler said.
“The evidence will show that he [Castellano] called them over so that he could pepper spray them,” Nadler told the jury. The defense attorney said Jesus Peralta was “extremely angered” after being “blasted” with pepper spray, but he had no reason to believe there were kids in the opposing vehicle.
Jesus “is a good kid, and he had no intention that night of harming any child,” Nadler told the jury during his opening statement.
Carlos Peralta’s defense attorney, Hung Du, said the case was about “road rage that went horribly, horribly wrong.”
Du said the evidence would show that the shooting happened only a few minutes after the gas station confrontation, when the brothers were still angered and in a rage over being pepper-sprayed. Common sense was taken over by the heat of passion, Du told the jury in his opening statement.
“This is not first-degree murder,” Du said.
Lorena Ibarra was the first witness called to the stand following opening statements Tuesday afternoon. Her testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in Department A16 at Antelope Valley courthouse.
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