On November 9th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. In preparation for oral arguments, JLWOP: Faces & Cases will be an on-going series on The Foundry that will tell real stories about juvenile offenders who are currently serving LWOP sentences.
Defendant: Rudolfo Sandoval (17)
Victim: Ryan Briner
Crime: First degree murder
Crime date: May 5, 2004 in Ventura, California
Rudolfo Sandoval shot and killed a random victim with a shotgun.
Rudolfo Sandoval was a member of the Ventura Avenue Gangsters. The gang is Ventura’s most prominent Hispanic criminal street gang, and its members commit a variety of crimes within the community, from assaults to drug-related offenses to murder.
Members of the Ventura Avenue Gang view most other gangs as their rivals, but they dislike gangs from Montalvo in particular. According to gang-crime experts, a Ventura Avenue Gang member’s stock would rise in the gang if he were to shot a random white male in Montalvo.
On May 4, 2004, Sandoval struck a man in the head with a shotgun and then gave the shotgun to Javier Acevedo, a fellow gang member, who shot up the victim’s car.
The following evening, Sandoval and Acevedo decided to “go cruising” around Montalvo in Acevedo’s car, which contained Acevedo’s 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun. At around 11:25 p.m., as the two drove down Wolverine Street in Montalvo, they spotted Ryan Briner, a 25-year-old white male walking toward his parents’ home at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Sandoval and Acevedo exchanged words with Briner as they drove by him. They made a U-turn at the end of the street and parked. Sandoval, bearing the shotgun, and Acevedo walked toward Briner.
Briner, fearing a fist fight, removed his shirt and wrapped it around his fist. But when he was just a few feet from Briner, Sandoval fired the shotgun, blowing a two-inch hole in Briner’s chest. Briner collapsed and, bleeding profusely, attempted to flee toward home, leaving a trail of blood in the street.
Sandoval fired a second shot, striking Briner in the back. Briner fell to the ground and bled to death. Sandoval and Acevedo returned to the car and drove away. Many people, including Briner’s mother, witnessed the shooting. Briner’s mother ran out into the street, saw her bloodied son on the ground, and suffered broke down in tears.
After leaving the murder scene, Acevedo and Sandoval drove to Acevedo’s grandmother’s home, where Sandoval shaved his head to avoid detection. They managed to avoid police scrutiny for over six months, until Acevedo was stopped by police officers for a traffic offense. A search of his car revealed shotgun ammunition, methamphetamine, a ski-mask, and the 12-gauge shotgun used to kill Briner.
Both before and after his arrest, Sandoval told many people that he shot Briner.
Charles D. Stimson is Senior Legal Fellow and Andrew M. Grossman is Senior Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.