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Press Release

Second Gunman Sentenced To 22 Years In Prison For August 11, 2018, Gang-Related Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Jose Aguilar sentenced to prison two months after co-defendant Jonathan Escobar is sentenced to serve 26 years in prison for his role in the murder

SAN FRANCISCO –Jose Aguilar, aka Slim, was sentenced to serve 22 years in prison for his role in the August 11, 2018, murder of then-19-year-old Gerson Romero, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and San Francisco Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. The sentence was handed down by the Hon. Vince Chhabria, United States District Judge.

“We will not surrender the streets of San Francisco to violent street gangs,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey. “Gang violence will not lead to personal profit. To the contrary; where appropriate we will seek severe, impactful sentences, such as the decades-long one imposed here.”

“This sentencing sends a message to criminal gang members that they will face justice for menacing our communities through murder and other violent crime,” said Special Agent in Charge King. “This case has been hard fought by the men and women of HSI, the San Francisco Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California, and we hope that this sentencing provides some solace for the senseless loss of loved ones.”

Aguilar, 34, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to the charge on May 3, 2023. According to his plea agreement, Aguilar admitted that on the day of the murder, he was a member of the 19th Street/16th Street Sureños, a San Francisco street gang. He further admitted that the gang was an amalgamation of two gangs, one that claimed “territory” bounded by 19th Street to the South, 16th Street to the North, Folsom Street to the East, and Dolores Street to the West and the other that generally operated around 16th Street and Mission Street, in the Mission District of San Francisco. The gang also operated in Dolores Park and Franklin Square Park (also known as Bryant Park). Aguilar acknowledged that the street gang operated as a “racketeering enterprise” and that members of the gang sought to maintain control of designated neighborhoods by, among other things, committing crimes. In this case, the indictment described, and Aguilar admitted, how members of the 19th Street/16th Street Sureños committed acts of violence, sold narcotics, and engaged in robberies to meet the aims of the criminal enterprise.

Aguilar admitted that on the day of the murder, he and fellow gang members were scouting for rival gang members to retaliate for an earlier drive-by shooting when they spotted Romero and several of his friends. Aguilar and his fellow gang members, including Jonathan Escobar, 24, of Richmond, Calif., concluded that Romero and the others were members of a rival gang. After two pedestrians passed by, Aguilar and his fellow gang members took aim and began firing. The bullets killed Romero. Aguilar and Escobar fired repeatedly, continuing to shoot even after Romero had fallen. Five other victims fled from the gunfire, three of them struck and wounded.

On April 15, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Aguilar and Escobar, charging each defendant with the murder (using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j)(1) and 2) and with an additional firearm charge (use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 2). Aguilar pleaded guilty to the first count, and the second count was dismissed.

On April 5, 2023, Escobar pleaded guilty to his role in the crime, and on June 28, 2023, Judge Chhabria sentenced him to 26 years in prison for that crime and two others committed while he was in pretrial detention. Aguilar and Escobar both have been in federal custody since their arrest on April 20, 2021.

The case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime Strike Force of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the San Francisco Police Department’s Gang Task Force and Homicide Unit.

Updated September 5, 2023