Critique of SD Reader’s Cover Story: It’s a Tough Crowd at Vista Boxing Ring

Left to right, Mark Anthony Diaz, Boxing Promoter Derek Pierce, boxer Ricky Gutierrez, boxing trainer Hector Gil, Ricky Gutierrez's proud father Raul Gutierrez at the Boxers for Christ Tournament at the Undisputed Downtown Gym on December 19, 2009. Photo: Jim Wyatt

The same way a book gets reviewed, the San Diego Reader’s cover story “It’s a Tough Crowd at Vista Boxing Ring” needs to be discussed. The featured article went to print Wednesday, August 17, one year, four months and 10 days after the tragic death of the beloved boxing trainer Hector Gil.


Though I find the article quite thorough at times, it does have a few errors and leaves out some of the more impact-full details concerning the testimony of the eyewitnesses. At no time do they mention the most damaging testimony that came from the Deputy Sheriff/Homicide Detective Mark Palmer, the defense attorney’s lame attempt to establish an alibi, or the possibility of Diaz’s mindset being altered by drug use.

Happier days: Mark Anthony Diaz (L) holds up his right index finger to signify that his boxing team is number one in the tournament held at the Undisputed Downtown Gym on December 19, 2009. Two of the three boxers shown, Ricky Gutierrez (second from the left) and Jesus Hernandez (right) later became professional boxers..

In the article, they mention it took less than two days for the jury to deliberate the verdict of Diaz guilty on all counts. According to the Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza, “Strictly speaking, the case went to the jury at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 2011. Jury deliberations resumed Monday, April 25 and by 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, the verdict of guilty was read.”

They also neglected to mention the ongoing appeal process which has delayed the sentencing. The initial sentencing was to take place on June 3, 2011.

Witness #2, Alexander Castellano, testified that he, his family and friends saw this guy driving a big, charcoal grey lifted Nissan Titan truck with oversized tires. He drove recklessly, went over a parking divider and then parked in the bottom front corner of the Shopping Center’s parking lot. Within minutes, they heard six shots, then saw the same man run back to the same truck. He said there was a white decal on the center back window of the truck and described the clothes the man was wearing as a dark hoodie. Castellano later identified the same truck for police.

Witnesses #3 and #4, David Santiago and Jose Gonzalez were the buddies who went to dinner with Castellano and his family. They agreed fully with Castellano’s version and concurred they had seen this shiny item hanging out the person’s back pocket. Gonzalez recalled seeing the familiar Titan emblem and seeing that same truck off and on in front of the gym.

When the defense tried to poke holes in Gonzalez’s testimony, they got lambasted. At such a late hour with only the lights of the shopping center, how could he be so sure about the make of the vehicle? Gonzalez worked at a dealership and had recently been shopping for a Nissan Titan. He also noticed the missing emblem on the rear tailgate.

Witness #6 Trainer/Cut man Albert Gamez testified Gil told him in February and March that Diaz was upset with Gil because Gutierrez, who had just turned professional, had switched from Diaz over to Gil to be his trainer. He also listened to two voice mails from Diaz that threatened Gil’s life.

Gamez, who knew both the defendant and the victim, testified Diaz called him last February and asked him not to help Gutierrez with an upcoming fight because Diaz and Gutierrez had a disagreement and Gutierrez decided to train with Gil.

The witness added that Gil told him Diaz had been threatening him. At a second fighter’s bout, the Danny Perez versus Erislandy Lara bout at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 2, 2010, Gil had Gamez listen to more voice mail messages from Diaz. That was only five days before the murder.

Gamez testified, “Diaz left a message saying he was ‘going to blast him or shoot him.’ He said, `I’m going to blast you, I’m going to shoot you. You’re gonna die.’ He (Gil) was clearly bothered by it.”

Witness #12 was the no nonsense Deputy Sheriff/Homicide Detective Mark Palmer. He had information from an eyewitness who said they lived nearby, heard the shots and went directly to a window overlooking the gym’s parking lot. The witness stated he was certain it was Diaz, “I don’t believe it, I know it,” he said.

In the prosecutor’s questioning of the Homicide Detective, the detective stated that gunshot residue was found on the steering wheel of the truck Diaz drove and on the black sweat shirt which they confiscated from his home.

Witness #14, an alibi from a drinker at a dive bar called the Golden Tee Cocktail Lounge in Carlsbad went no where. He didn’t remember much of anything that happened that night. It was one of the Defense’s feeble ploys to create doubt. Or, maybe because of the bars convenient location near the I 5, it was part of Diaz’s plan to establish a time frame alibi by driving like a maniac to and from in under 10 minutes.

Judge Kerry Wells, the well respected judge, insured that there would be no slip-ups in this high profile murder case. Wells is known in judicial circles as the prosecutor who on her second attempt sent socialite murderer Betty Broderick to prison for 32 years to life for the murder of her former husband and his fiance in 1990.

Charismatic Sean Loeffler strikes a menacing pose for the San Diego Reader.

On the Reader’s glossy cover, they use a photo of a 29 year-old mixed martial artist by the name of Sean Loeffler. I’m almost certain Loeffler has never set one foot in the Pacific Coast Boxing Gym. Loeffler has been an MMA instructor at The Compound MMA Gym in Oceanside since they first opened their doors. The use of his menacing photo on the cover has no baring on what transpires at the Pacific Coast Boxing gym in Vista.

Plus, the bogus headline is certainly off the mark. When a single madman comes along and takes a community leader from us, how does that equate to being a haven for “a tough crowd.” Inside that Vista gym you’ll find dedicated athletes comparable to the athletes you’ll see on any high school baseball diamond or football field. To me it sounds like the people affected were incredulous, trusting and could never imagine such an atrocity

The writer mentions Peter Moreno and Raul Gutierrez as “the boss’ two big guys, two tough guys.” The only description left out was “the boss’ muscle.” Moreno is a volunteer, has an average build, stands about 5’6” tall and he’s in his late forties. Gutierrez is much older and likely a grandparent. The two gentleman are not tough guys (enforcers) as the Reader article purports.

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