Tears in court as jury hears evidence in penalty phase of Los Palillos murder trial

Ex-cop, defendant both emotional during testimony

SAN DIEGO - A former Chula Vista police officer lashed out in court Monday against the men he says tried to kill him, while one defendant wiped tears as his sister testified on his behalf.

The penalty phase was underway against two Mexican drug lords already facing life in prison without parole.

Alejandrina Rojas Lopez was speaking through an interpreter about violence in their home in Tijuana while growing up.

"Yes, my father used to hit my mother," she said.

Her brother, Jorge Rojas Lopez, has been mostly stoic during the yearlong trial that ended in convictions for him and co-defendant Juan Estrada-Gonzalez. Her words, though, brought her brother's emotions to the surface.

The jury found the men guilty of several murders, kidnapping and torture during the time they were leaders of a South Bay street gang with its roots in Mexico known as Los Palillos.

In court, Judge David Rubin ordered that no witness faces could be shown.

Former Chula Vista police officer Richard Deomapo told of his post-traumatic stress disorder following a gun battle with the defendants.

"It was endless, sleepless nights, the nightmares of my own funeral, it was my anger," Deomapo said.

He recalled the crime scene, depicted in photos, with a bullet hole in his squad car windshield, tires that were shot out and evidence markers littering the street where shell casings were found.

"At that point I realized I almost lost my life and I was almost [expletive] killed," said Deomapo.

He also talked of anger toward Rojas and Estrada, saying, "These [expletive] just tried to kill me."

Deomapo broke down and a brief recess allowed him to compose himself.

"I get emotional because of the pain my friends and family would go through if I weren't here today," he said.

There is expected to be about two more weeks of testimony before the jury will be asked to recommend the death penalty or life without parole.

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