Vicious taggers in 2007 murdered Maria Hicks, a beloved grandmother and neighbor in Pico Rivera, for committing the insult of flashing her headlights at one of them to stop him as he scrawled graffiti on a wall in her community. Today Norwalk Superior Court Judge Dewey Falcone sent that violent tagger, Cesar Lopez, to prison for 21 years.

That must make the actual heartless shooter — Angel Chris Rojas — very nervous about his fate as he faces the judge and up to life in prison at his own April 25 sentencing. The horrifying gunning down of Hicks by teenager Rojas was an urban nightmare that shook even hardened residents of the Los Angeles area:

That night, of August 10 2007, Maria Hicks was helping out with a yard sale to benefit a school, and she had just finished loading up her sister's truck with sales items.

As she drove into her own neighborhood, she saw some jerk spraying a wall at San

Gabriel River Parkway and Woodford Street, and flashed her headlights.

She also honked her horn, then followed in her Honda Element as the tagger walked away — probably to be sure he'd gotten the message that graffiti wasn't going to be tolerated in her area.

But as testimony later showed, Cesar Lopez had a violent crew with him, lurking in the shadows. Gunman Angel Chris Rojas stepped forward and shot away, three to five times, into Hicks' car, hitting her once in the head. She clung to life for three days.

As City News Service reports today, Rojas was hit with numerous charges including street terrorism. He probably thought he could kill an innocent woman and never pay:

Co-defendant Angel Chris Rojas, now 21, was convicted of first-degree

murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle, street terrorism and unlawful firearm

activity. He is facing up to 50 years to life in prison, with sentencing set

for April 25.

Two others, Jennifer Ann Tafolla, 24, and Richard Daniel Rolon, 25, were

convicted of street terrorism, but acquitted of the more serious charge of

murder. They were each sentenced last month to three years in state prison and

given credit for time they had already served.

Reporter Ruby Gonzalez at the Whittier Daily News has the sobering details on the two violent suburban gangs engaged in the usual petty territorial battle of tagging and retagging, so deep into their hating that they took down Maria Hicks as well.

Outrage spread far beyond Pico Rivera as Hicks became known as an unwitting but widely mourned martyr:

You've probably never even heard of the Brown Authority and Young Nation gangs. Hicks, her friends and co-workers later explaned, had a zero-tolerance policy toward taggers.

LA Weekly