San Diego, CA–A gang member was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison after being found guilty of attempted murder of a rival gang member during a cycle of gang-related violence in San Diego during the fall of 2020, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said Friday.
The sentencing comes as prosecutors said gang violence continues to increase in the county.
George Thomas Rouston Jr., 48, was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison after being found guilty of attempting to murder a rival gang member during a cycle of gang-related violence that was occurring in San Diego during the fall of 2020. The sentencing comes as prosecutors said gang violence continues to increase in San Diego county.
The crime occurred during a turbulent gang war, in and around Logan Heights and Sherman Heights. In October of 2020, a cycle of violence resulted in back-to-back homicides, spurring Rouston and a co-defendant, Issic Navarro, 26, to conspire to murder a rival gang member. Their immediate motivation was retaliation for the murder of a young member of their own gang. Rouston and Navarro followed the victim home from a vigil and opened fire in front of his home in broad daylight. At least 15 gunshots were fired. One struck the victim in the face, and the rest struck several vehicles nearby. The victim survived the gunshot to his face but was left permanently disfigured.
Multiple neighbors and witnesses were standing within feet of the victim during the attack. However, every witness refused to cooperate with law enforcement due to their fear of gangs and the proximity of the attack to their own homes. After the shooting, Rouston took police on a high-speed chase through residential neighborhoods and escaped on foot. During the vehicle pursuit, two guns were tossed from the vehicle. A ghost gun was thrown out near a school and the other on a residential street. The San Diego Police Department worked diligently to recover surveillance videos along the vehicle pursuit, and where Rouston fled on foot.
The evidence collected by San Diego police detectives was presented to a jury who found Rouston guilty of premeditated attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and shooting at an occupied vehicle in November of 2021. In addition, the jury found the crime was committed for the benefit of his street gang. Rouston’s co-defendant, Navarro, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 17 years in state prison. San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser presided over the case and noted at the sentencing that the case demonstrates how a “small minority can wreak havoc on a community.”
The latest gang-related sentencing is a troubling reminder that law enforcement officials are grappling with an increase in gang-motivated shootings and the ongoing proliferation of ‘ghost guns’– firearms that are assembled by hand and are usually untraceable, according to prosecutors.
“The numbers paint a disturbing picture of gang violence on the rise in the county and of course, behind every statistic is a personal story and families left grieving a loved one,” said DA Stephan. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we’re responding to this deadly trend through both prosecution and prevention.”
The DA’s office saw an uptick in gang-related cases it filed last year, from 368 in 2020 to 465 in 2021. For 2021 in the city of San Diego, there were 17 gang homicides, a 70% increase from 10 in 2020 and a 30% increase from 2019, where there were 13 gang homicides. Gang shootings in 2021 and 2020 remain high with 71 and 70 respective gang shootings, a 31% increase from 2019 when there were 54 gang shootings.
In 2021, the San Diego Police Department Gang Unit recovered 78 ghost guns, up from just 25 ghost guns recovered in 2020. This is a 212% increase in one year for ghost guns recovered by officers in the city of San Diego alone.
San Diego police have been proactive in preventing gang violence by removing illegal firearms from known gang members. In 2020, officers recovered 100 illegally possessed firearms. In 2021, that number increased by 118% — recovering 218 illegal firearms off our streets.