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Gang members get sentenced to total of 76 years for involvement in drive-by shootings
Ernesto Reyes, standing in a red jumpsuit, appears Wednesday in court for sentencing along with his brother, Adrian Reyes, sitting in an orange jumpsuit. Ernesto Reyes was given 24 years to serve in prison, and Adrian Reyes was given seven years to serve in prison. - photo by Stephen Gurr
Ernesto Reyes said he got the wrong house when he fired three shotgun blasts at a home in the Silverwood subdivision off Candler Road last August.

Reyes, an acknowledged member of the BOE street gang, will have up to 24 years behind bars to contemplate the mistake.

"I’m going to be thinking about this the whole time I’m in jail, because it’s going to be a long time," Reyes said in Hall County Superior Court Wednesday, after agreeing to a negotiated guilty plea that brought him a sentence of 50 years, with 24 years to serve in custody.

Reyes was one of five members of the BOE and La Onda street gangs who got prison sentences totaling 76 years Wednesday after pleading guilty to the shootings at Silverwood and the Lenox Park subdivision in what were intended as acts of retribution against the rival MVS and SUR-13 gangs.

The occupants of the homes, however, had no gang connections.

"What happened was not the way I meant for it to happen," Reyes, 19, said. No one was injured when Reyes fired into both homes on Aug. 14, though the residents were inside. Reyes claimed that a member of SUR-13 had earlier pointed a gun at him.

"To my knowledge, there was somebody there that did something to me, which of course was wrong," Reyes said.

A woman whose home was sprayed with shotgun pellets responded from the courtroom gallery, "No house was the right house."

Chief Judge Andrew Fuller handed out heavy sentences after the pleas, all of which were negotiated between the men’s attorneys and the Hall County District Attorney’s office. The driver in the Silverwood shooting, 20-year-old Enrique Rodriguez Toribio, got a 45-year sentence, with 18 years to serve in prison.

Jose Arellano-Villatoro, 18, the driver in the Lenox Park shooting, got a 30-year sentence with 12 years in prison. Christopher Rivera Sanchez, who provided the 12-gauge shotgun used in the shootings, got 45 years with 15 to serve in custody.

Ernesto Reyes’ younger brother, 17-year-old Adrian Reyes, was sentenced to 20 years with seven to serve in prison.

All the men were also banished from Hall and Dawson counties for the length of their sentences.

"The court feels the punishments being imposed today are appropriate punishments," Fuller told the defendants. "You have impacted the lives of these people forever. They will never forget what occurred that night. Thank the Lord no one was hurt. They will have difficulty sleeping for nights and nights, as most people would, as a result of your actions."

One victim from the Lenox Park subdivision recounted to the court how a shotgun blast missed his sleeping wife by inches.

"From that day on my life changed, and I said, ‘why has this happened to us,’" the victim said in Spanish, as a court interpreter translated. "I could have lost my wife. It’s very hard for the father of a household to have someone shoot at us, so I ask for justice."

Gainesville police identified the defendants shortly after the second shooting when they found them gathered outside the Atlanta Street apartments just as a lookout bulletin was posted over police radios for a white Honda. An officer looked into the car and saw a shotgun.

Two other teenagers charged in the crime had their cases adjudicated in juvenile court. Their names and court sentences are not a part of public record because of their ages.

The woman whose home was targeted in the Silverwood subdivision vented at the five defendants when Fuller gave her an opportunity to speak.

"I am the person who was in the house you shot," she said, glaring at the defendants. "You knew what you were doing that night. We don’t even feel safe anymore in our own house, thanks to you guys. "Several of the defendants apologized, addressing their remarks to the victims in English and in Spanish. Adrian Reyes appeared to be near tears.

"I made a mistake in what I did," he said. "I never meant to hurt anybody."

Arellano-Villatoro said his family brought him to Gainesville five years before, "and they never had problems with anyone.

"I don’t know what went wrong, but I went on the wrong path," he said.

Fuller told the five young men, "I do not know what you felt you would gain from being in a gang."

"You are examples for people who might want to participate in gangs," the judge said.