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Cobb’s trial begins in 1999 gang killings

Seven years after authorities believe Delbert Cobb went on a two-month shooting spree against rival gang members, his murder trial began Wednesday.

Police say Cobb, then a 16-year-old member of the 28th Street gang, patrolled the group’s territory. He killed two people who had no affiliation to any gang and wounded six others in six separate shootings in November-December 1999, according to his police report.

In two of those shootings, he was never formally charged.

He was arrested in December 1999 after two shooting victims identified him in a police lineup. In March 2000, he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to eight to 20 years.

Shortly after the plea, authorities charged him with murder.

Cobb is now on trial for the slayings of Juan Lopez Sr., 39, and Jorge Contreras, 18, killed in separate incidents. He also faces a charge of attempted murder in the wounding of Juan Lopez Jr., who was wearing a T-shirt with a rival gang reference when he was shot while walking home from a market with his father.

Contreras was walking home from his job to his girlfriend’s house in 28th Street territory when he was shot.

Defense attorney Bret Whipple did not give an opening statement, but in an interview he said he hopes to show the jury that, in a gang environment, guns are shared by different members of the group. The weapons, he emphasized, were not found in Cobb’s possession.

He said Cobb was not the triggerman in either slaying.

“His position is he was involved in the two cases he pled guilty to and that he was there when Juan Lopez (Sr.) died, but he was not there when Contreras was killed,” Whipple said.

Cobb’s trial has been continued 10 times, in part because the case has a number of complicated legal questions that attorneys had to litigate and because many witnesses, including Lopez, are in prisons throughout the Southwest.

At least three of the shooting victims who survived were members of a rival gang, DiGiacomo said, including those from the two cases in which Cobb pleaded guilty.

Las Vegas police found that the shootings connected to Cobb had been carried out with the same .22 caliber guns.

The 28th Street gang is Hispanic, but witnesses to many of the shootings reported that the gunman was black, DiGiacomo told jurors. Cobb was the sole black juvenile member of the gang known to authorities, he said.

Las Vegas police also used Cobb’s graffiti moniker to link him to a number of the crimes.

“I think once he got started (committing crimes) he probably got to liking it and couldn’t stop,” Las Vegas gang unit Detective Patrick Pearns said in a December interview. “There were so many incidents where his name was mentioned in a short period of time.”

The 28th Street gang, one of the oldest Las Vegas Hispanic gangs, has dispersed throughout the valley as housing projects in the neighborhood were torn down, Pearns said.

“It’s rare that Hispanic gangs have black gang members in them. He (Cobb) is a black kid, so he probably had more to prove than anybody else,” Pearns said.

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