When he cried as a child, Edwin Ramos said, his mother called him gay. She also told him she wished he was never born. And one of her boyfriends physically abused him.
While the rough upbringing led him into gang life, the alleged MS-13 member claimed in court Monday that it did not turn him into the kind of monster who would gun down a father and two of his sons.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Ramos took the stand Monday and testified on his own behalf. He smiled, as he said he does when he is nervous, for much of the time.
The 25-year-old El Sobrante resident is accused of fatally shooting Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, on the afternoon of June 22, 2008, in the Excelsior district. The Bologna family had been driving home from a picnic.
The killings, according to prosecutors, were in retaliation for the shooting of an MS-13 member earlier that day in the Mission district. The victims were reportedly mistaken for rival gang members.
A large part of the questioning during the day from Ramos’ attorney, Marla Zamora, led to answers in which Ramos talked about how he became a gang member and how later attempts to turn his life around made him a target within his own gang.
Ramos said he obtained a visa to move to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 13. He said he ran away from his Mission district home following verbal abuse by his mother and physical abuse by one of her boyfriends. He eventually joined the 20th Street clique of the MS-13 gang.
“When I cried, she said I was gay,” Ramos said of his mother, adding that she also told him “she wished I was never born.”
After numerous run-ins with the law, Ramos said, he spent time at a group home and at the Log Cabin Ranch, a juvenile detention facility in San Mateo County. There, he said he was beginning to turn his life around, but new leadership of his gang made that difficult.
Previous witness testimony claimed Ramos left 20th Street to join Pasadena Locos Sureños because his former gang wasn’t violent enough.
Ramos disputed that Monday, claiming he became a target of the gang’s new leaders, partly for talking to rival gangsters he met at Log Cabin Ranch. Ramos said he was repeatedly “regulated,” or beat up, for breaking the new leadership’s rules. One rule he broke was wearing a red 49ers jacket, the color of the gang’s rivals.
“And I’m a big fan,” Ramos said of the football team.
When asked to describe the day of the shootings, Ramos said he was driving with fellow gang member Wilfredo “Flaco” Reyes, who remains at large, in the passenger seat and was turning left from Maynard Street onto Congdon Street.
The Bolognas were in a car on Congdon Street and were partially blocking Ramos from turning. At that point, Ramos said Reyes began pointing at the car and saying “chappos, chappos,” which is Spanish slang for northerner.
Ramos said Reyes “then leaned over me and fired through my window,” shooting about five rounds.
“I got scared,” Ramos said. “It happened really fast.”
Danielle Bologna, the wife and mother of the victims, was in the courtroom and began crying as Ramos recounted the shooting.
Her lone surviving son, Andrew Bologna, 22, who also was in the car that day, testified earlier in the trial that Ramos was the one who fired the shots and that he was the only one in the car.
Bay City News contributed to this report.