SANTA ANA — A 37-year-old Riverside man who took part in a fatal vehicle-to-vehicle shooting in Santa Ana and tried to kill a sheriff’s deputy while in custody pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to court records obtained Monday.
Emmanuel Vega pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter, shooting at a car and attempted murder, all felonies, and admitted a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm in the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of 36-year-old Juan Manuel Diaz in the 1600 block of East Edinger Avenue.
Vega also pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the Jan. 12, 2019, attack on a sheriff’s deputy, according to court records. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for that case, which will run concurrent to the manslaughter case.
Vega was given credit for 3,114 days in custody.
Vega was arrested in December 2013 in connection with the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of Diaz.
Co-defendant Steve Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January 2014 and has been awaiting sentencing. Court records in his case are sealed.
Vega opened fire from a Toyota 4Runner owned by this father into a blue van with Diaz behind the wheel, according to police testimony from his March 2015 preliminary hearing.
Roberto Diaz, who was a passenger in the van, was also wounded but survived.
Moreno told police he was a passenger in the SUV. According to the preliminary hearing testimony, Vega picked him up and they drove to a park in Irvine looking for members of a local gang.
They didn’t see anyone from the particular gang they were looking for so they played some basketball before Vega went over to a handball court to resume the search, according to testimony. They were about to leave when they saw Juan and Roberto Diaz and decided to follow them, according to the police testimony.
Vega produced a gun during the ride, but Moreno declined to use it, so Vega opened fire on the victims, who were cousins of Moreno’s wife, police said. It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting.
Vega had been charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of shooting from a vehicle and murder by means of lying in wait. He was also facing charges of possession of a gun by a felon and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancement allegations for discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury or death and attempted premeditated murder.
In the attack on the deputy on Jan. 12, 2019, Vega used a metal shank, prosecutors said. He was also accused of attacking another deputy and a sergeant, according to court records.
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