Jury says gunman in Hawaiian Gardens shooting rampage deserves death sentence

Joseph Mercado is brought into a Norwalk courtroom for closing arguments in his murder trial.

Joseph Mercado is brought into a Norwalk courtroom for closing arguments in his murder trial.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County jury concluded Friday that a 31-year-old man who shot his ex-girlfriend and her brother and father at the family’s home in Hawaiian Gardens five years ago should be sentenced to death.

Joseph Mercado was convicted last week of three counts of first-degree murder as well as attempted murder and other charges, including child abuse, arson and burglary.

Jurors also convicted him in connection with special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, lying in wait and engaging in arson.


He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29.

During closing statements during the trial’s first phase, family members of the shooting victims stormed out of the Norwalk courtroom as details of the killings were described.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Villa told jurors that Mercado planned the attacks a month earlier when he purchased a high-powered rifle and ammunition. The rifle was an AK-47.

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Villa said Mercado told his boss of his plans.

“He told them he was going to kill them all,” Villa told jurors.

He said Mercado drove to the family’s home in the 21900 block of South Devline Avenue during the early morning hours of May 6, 2010. At least 10 people were inside the house.

Mercado parked his car, smoked a cigarette, then carried out the crimes, Villa said. Mercado used meat to keep the family’s dogs quiet while he poured gasoline around the property, then set fire to the house, the prosecutor said.

Mercado then broke into the back of the house and went on a shooting rampage, Villa said. The victims were his ex-girlfriend, Serena Tarin, 23; her brother, Alfred Tarin, 19; and her father, Alfredo Tarin Sr., 54.


At least two other family members were wounded.

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