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4 charged in gang-related killing at Midvale wedding

Criminal charges were filed Friday against four Salt Lake men in connection with the gang-related shooting death at a wedding in Midvale on Nov. 6.

Criminal charges were filed Friday against four Salt Lake men in connection with the gang-related shooting death at a wedding in Midvale on Nov. 6. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

MIDVALE — Four men — all members of a violent street gang, according to prosecutors — were charged Friday in connection with a fatal shooting at a wedding party in Midvale. One of the men had already been convicted of killing another person just six years earlier, and another was waiting to be sentenced on a shooting last year that left a man paralyzed.

On Friday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed criminal charges against:

  • Guillermo William Herrera, 19, of Salt Lake City, was charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, first-degree felonies; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and three counts of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony.
  • Daniel Brando Garcia, 22, of Salt Lake City, was charged with possession of a gun by a restricted person, a first-degree felony; and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
  • Troy Latorio Kajiyama, 19, of Salt Lake City, was charged with possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies.
  • Marqus Paul James, 22, of Salt Lake City, was charged with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.

On Nov. 6, Oscar Avila, 28, of Midvale, was attending a family wedding at the Ganesh Center, 145 E. Fort Union Blvd., when police say three uninvited people — Herrera, Garcia and Kajiyama — showed up. All three are members of the same "very violent street gang," according to charging documents.

"The men began causing problems with guests, many of whom were associated with a rival gang," the charges state.

The men initially refused to leave and Kajiyama lifted his shirt at one point to reveal a gun in his waistband, charging documents state. When the group finally left, they were followed out the door by a group of wedding guests, including Avila who was a member of a rival gang.

When the group got to the parking lot, a fight ensued. The fight also included James, who was outside, according to police.

Herrera allegedly pistol-whipped Avila in the face, causing him to fall to the ground. Herrera then stood over Avila, pointed his gun at Avila's friends, and then shot Avila while he was still on the ground, according to the charges.

After the four men were arrested, they claimed to police they either did not know anything about the shooting or had not been at the wedding at all — even when presented with video and photographic evidence that showed otherwise, the charges state.

Herrera was already facing sentencing in a separate shooting at the time of wedding.

On May 26, 2020, Chase Barron, 29, was shot in the parking lot of a Reams Food Store, 7235 W. 3500 South. A bullet struck his spine and Barron and doctors said he would no longer be able to walk, according to charging documents.

Herrera, who "has a long and violent criminal history," according to prosecutors, was convicted on Oct. 4 of felony discharge of a firearm and obstructing justice. He was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Nov. 12 after he failed to report to Adult Probation and Parole to participate in a pre-sentencing report, and was arrested on Nov. 13. He is now scheduled to be sentenced for the 2020 shooting on Jan. 10.

James, meanwhile, was already on probation for killing a man when he was 15. In that case, James pleaded guilty in 2015 in juvenile court to firing a weapon at another person, a third-degree felony. The teen then waived a certification hearing and pleaded guilty that same day in 3rd District Court to manslaughter with a gang enhancement, making it a first-degree felony.

James remained in juvenile detention until he turned 21. Then in July of 2020, he went before a 3rd District Court judge to be sentenced for his manslaughter conviction. He was given a suspended sentence of 5 years to life in the Utah State Prison and placed on probation for an extraordinary long term of 14 years, according to court records. Part of the conditions of that probation was to not associate with gang members.

On Nov. 9, a warrant was issued for James' arrest after parole agents viewed video that showed James at the wedding associating with gang members on the night of the wedding, according to court documents. His next scheduled court hearing in that case is Dec. 17. James could be sent to prison to serve his original 5-years-to-life sentence even before his trial on his new charges begin.

The family of Marcos Cardenas, 22, who was shot and killed by James, said in a statement to that they believe James should have served prison time.

"We are just so frustrated, as a family. Our pursuit of justice and healing has been continually hindered by what we call a justice system. We feel like no matter what we have said or brought forward to any of his hearings and sentencings it was always just brushed aside and here we have (James) involved again with another murder over gang affiliations," the statement says.

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