Phone records trace steps of accused murderer in Fresno

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An admitted gang member with a beef says he was not the gunman who killed an innocent teenager after a Mardi Gras showdown in Fresno. (KFSN)

An admitted gang member with a beef says he was not the gunman who killed an innocent teenager after a Mardi Gras showdown in Fresno.

Brian Flores was an 18-year-old described by many as just a sweet kid and definitely a kid with no gang affiliation. But a friend of his had a history, and when it caught up to him in 2014, the first signs of trouble were caught on camera.

"He's mad," said Steven Cabrera in the cellphone video, referring to Richard Melendez, a gang member who was walking past. "He's mad. Look at him."

When Melendez came across Cabrera, an old nemesis, in the Tower District, police were already on scene and a camera was rolling. A Fresno officer was checking to make sure Flores wasn't driving drunk as he and some friends, including Cabrera, left Mardi Gras celebrations. Years earlier, Cabrera had beaten up Melendez and when they saw each other again that March night in 2014, witnesses say Melendez obviously wanted revenge.

"He's ready to fight," prosecutor Sam Dalesandro said, describing the witness statements. "He's showing a gun. He's ready to commit violence."

An FBI agent says phone records show Melendez was right there in the Tower District when the cellphone video was taken. He followed its movement north and west until it was definitely in the vicinity when Flores was shot to death in a drive-by near Ashlan and Marks avenues. Cabrera identified Melendez as the shooter, and the phone tells a similar story.

"The defendant's own phone placing him within 0.77 miles of where the murder happened," Dalesandro said.

The phone also revealed texts in which Melendez talks about shooting at a car. Prosecutors say his web activity was also about what you'd expect from someone who just committed murder by drive-by.

"At 9:29 in the morning the defendant is checking ABC30 and he brings up a very specific web page - 'Man in critical condition after shooting,'" Dalesandro said of the headline over the story he checked -- the story of the shooting he's accused of carrying out.

Melendez is facing life in prison without parole if he's convicted. His defense attorney could barely speak Monday because of a hoarse throat, so closing arguments should finish up on Wednesday.
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