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Alleged Gang Member Takes The Stand For Shooting A Cop

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INDIO (CBS) — An alleged gang member accused of shooting a police officer is scheduled to take the stand tomorrow in his own defense.

Francisco “Poncho” Salcido, 31, is charged with attempted murder and other counts for allegedly opening fire on Robert Ritchie, a now retired Desert Hot Springs police sergeant on Memorial Day in 2008.

After the prosecution rested its case, Salcido briefly took the stand today and will return in the morning.

Earlier this week, Ritchie testified that he had been following Salcido in a BMW on May 28, 2008 because he thought another gang member — who was wanted for a shooting that occurred a few days earlier — was in the car. According to Ritchie, the driver of the BMW pulled over on her own at the intersection of First Street and Cactus Drive, and Salcido got out and fired 12 rounds at Ritchie. Ritchie said that he fired 16 to 17 rounds back at Salcido.

“I believe I stopped shooting first because I reloaded and, after I reloaded, I didn’t have any more shots being fired at me,” said Ritchie.

Salcido’s former attorney contended during the preliminary hearing that Salcido fired at the officer because he feared for his life.

When Salcido was taken into custody at Lopez’s home two days after the shooting, he said, “You guys got me … You know what I did … and (the officer) knows what he did,” Desert Hot Springs police Detective Larry Essex testified during Salcido’s preliminary hearing.

The detective’s testimony stated that Salcido told police that on the day of the shooting, he got a ride from Jessica Hernandez, who was driving the BMW. He maintained that when he exited the car, he kissed her and said thank you, then saw the officer get out of his patrol car with a gun and heard him rack a round into the chamber.

Salcido is charged with attempted murder of a police officer, participating in criminal street gang activity, assault with a firearm and carrying a gun in public. He faces life in prison if convicted. He is also facing two other attempted murder charges in a separate case from a 2005 shooting. The preliminary hearing in that case is scheduled for April 12.

The defendant’s cousin, Desert Hot Springs resident Alisha Marie Lopez, 32, and her boyfriend Ernie Mendoza Chavez, 21, both pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting charge for housing Salcido for two days while he was being sought by police.

Lopez pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 20 months in jail and three years probation. Chavez, who also pleaded guilty to being a gang member in entering into a plea deal in January, received three years probation.

Salcido is being held at the Indio Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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