California teen found guilty in taco truck owner’s slaying

Posted at 4:00 PM, April 15, 2022 and last updated 7:50 PM, July 14, 2023

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) — A California judge found a teenage boy guilty Thursday in the slaying of a taco truck owner last year, The Modesto Bee reported.

The boy, who was 13 at the time, walked up to the Modesto taco truck Feb. 16, 2021, and fatally shot Rafael Avila-Rodriguez in the face, Judge Rubén Villalobos ruled Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The defendant showed little emotion as Villalobos announced his decision, The Bee reported.

California law states that children under 14 years old can only be prosecuted if, at the time of the crime, “they knew its wrongfulness.”
The newspaper reported that the judge said the defendant knew his actions were wrong and noted that he had immediately fled after the shooting, hid the gun and evaded and deceived police.

The teen has not yet been sentenced but the juvenile court’s jurisdiction ends at age 25, meaning he cannot be incarcerated in connection with Avila-Rodriguez’s slaying beyond then.

“It is my hope that you do not spend a life incarcerated,” the judge told the minor. “It is my hope that you spend a life honoring yourself, your parents, and the life you took, that of Mr. Avila-Rodriguez.”

While prosecutors said the teen’s motive was robbery, the newspaper reported, the judge said he doubted that because a video only showed seven seconds between when the teen approached the truck’s order window and when the gunshot rang out.

“Rather, the video strikes of a completely senseless act of violence,” Villalobos said.

Modesto is about 93 miles (150 kilometers) east of San Francisco.