The sense of security is as fragile as glass.
I realized this when I recently took a trip to Stoneridge Mall, on my own, at dusk. As I parked, I thought of all the violent incidents in the Tri-Valley over the past few weeks. As I grabbed the doorknob, I remembered the armed robbery in the parking lot of a Danville grocery store the week before when a man had been approached by teenagers pointing guns at him as he got out of his car.
This July 1 robbery, which happened in broad daylight in a community named California’s safest community last year, made me want to lock my doors and not leave the house. Not only did this happen in the parking lot of a store I frequent, it was the fourth violent crime involving armed thugs in the Tri-Valley in the previous two weeks. It was preceded by a car robbery with gunfire in Pleasanton on June 28, which was preceded by an attempted armed robbery with gunfire in Danville on June 21, which was preceded by an armed carjacking at Livermore on June 20.
Two weeks passed and I started to feel a little safer, but the crack in my fragile sense of security was shattered again when three people were shot at the Granada Bowl in Livermore.
Police report Antonio Vargas, 28, was playing pool in the bowling alley bar on July 16 when there was a verbal altercation that turned into a physical altercation that ended with Roger Garcia Aleman pulling a gun and shooting three people, killing Vargas.
At 27, Aleman has had a long and violent career. He has been in and out of prison since he was 18 – or at least officially, as juvenile records are kept out of the public eye. After looking at his run-ins with the law since he was 18, I bet the violent and criminal behavior started long before he became a legal adult.
At age 18 in September 2013, Aleman was convicted of assault with a firearm and sentenced to four years in state prison. However, he obviously did not serve even half of his sentence as in July 2015 his parole was revoked and was sentenced to 145 days in county custody.
He had his parole revoked again in May 2016 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, then again in November of that year for escaping a police officer in Pleasanton and serving 18 days in Santa Rita. Because evading a police officer is a crime, Aleman was placed on probation for three years.
In November 2017, Aleman was arrested and charged with, among other offenses, possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a loaded firearm in a city, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle and possession of methamphetamine.
In 2018, Aleman did not contest a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years in San Quentin, with 182 days credit for time served. The remainder of the complaint was dismissed.
In September 2020, he was arrested for public intoxication, in May 2021 for possession of a firearm by an addict, and in December 2021 for possession of a controlled narcotic and marijuana.
Aleman pulled the trigger that ended Antonio Vargas’ life, but who is ultimately responsible for Vargas’ death? Is it the prosecutor’s office because it has compromised too much and too often by reducing and dismissing charges? Is it the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s parole board, because it opens the revolving doors of prisons to so many people before they’ve even served half their sentence?
California’s gun laws are among the most restrictive, if not the strictest, in the United States. In the Golden State, like many other states, felons are prohibited from owning firearms. However, Aleman was indeed in possession of a concealed firearm on July 16, 2022.
Criminals do not go through legal means to obtain firearms. They go through individual sales, in which sellers who are not licensed arms dealers are not required to complete a background check. They have a “straw buyer” who buys them. They steal them. They build them.
According to the California Department of Justice’s Armed and Prohibited Persons System 2021 Annual Report, as of January 1, 2022, 24,509 people on the Prohibited Persons List are known to possess firearms. Of that number, 54% of people banned in the APPS database were banned because of a felony conviction.
The department’s recommendations for getting firearms from banned people boil down to money — money to enforce a currently unfunded mandate that county courts confiscate or transfer firearms to criminals, money to offer competitive remuneration to its agents and money to modernize databases.
I want to be able to leave the house again without fear of being robbed at gunpoint or shot.
We need our elected representatives like Governor Gavin Newsom and Congressman Eric Swalwell to stop impersonating their party and constituents and focus on funding mandates that will get guns out of the hands of violent criminals.
It’s too late for Antonio Vargas and his family, but maybe we can stop it from happening again.
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