VACAVILLE — Gabriel “Snoop” Roberson, the East Contra Costa native who’s serving life for a murder conviction that gained a special notoriety after frequent references in popular underground rap songs, has been denied parole for the next 10 years.
Not only that, but the 44-year-old Roberson hardly sat down for his November 2020 parole hearing before he was kicked out during a heated back-and-forth with presiding parole commissioner Arthur Anderson, according to a transcript obtained Monday. As he was led away by a prison guard, Roberson called the proceeding “kangaroo court” and told Anderson, “you’re a clown,” the transcript says.
The exchange started when Roberson maintained his innocence in the 1994 quintuple shooting that left 26-year-old Jorge Franco dead. Roberson was 17 at the time, but was tried as an adult. Because of a prior home invasion robbery conviction, he’s been in prison since his 18th birthday, a decade of which he spent in solitary confinement in the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison.
“I’m suitable because I never even committed the crime I’m in here for,” Roberson said when asked why he deserves freedom.
“Okay, well that has nothing to do with why you’re here in prison,” Anderson replied.
“The fact that I didn’t commit the crime has nothing to do with why I’m in prison?” Roberson asked.
“No, it has nothing to do with this hearing…We’re not here to retry the case,” Anderson says, later adding, “The law says you’re guilty.”
“I don’t care what the law says,” Roberson retorted. “I’m not guilty.”
“Well, look, let me tell you something, Mr. Roberson, don’t get argumentative with me, I’m the wrong guy,” Anderson shot back, later adding, “I’ll throw you out of this hearing.”
A few moments later, Roberson was gone. Anderson later cited the “clown” remark as evidence Roberson was unsuitable for parole.
“Mr. Roberson obviously cannot control his anger,” Anderson said. “He flared up and became very angry at the start of the hearing and was very confrontational, disruptive, and totally disrespectful. Calling the commissioner names…We’re concerned that if he had a conflict with a stranger in society, that he didn’t like, it can result to violence.”
Commissioners also noted that Roberson didn’t have support letters, hadn’t vocalized plans after prison, and didn’t take anger management or other self-help programs in prison. Roberson’s attorney told commissioners his client likely believed the denial of parole would be a foregone conclusion but argued Roberson’s lack of violence in prison was evidence he would do well on the outside.
A notorious shooting amid violent gang rivalry
Roberson was convicted of murdering Franco and four attempted murder counts, after an earlier mistrial. The prosecutor, then-deputy district attorney John Cope, said at the time the case hinged on identification of Roberson as a shooter by a victim who admitted he had several beers that night.
The late Antioch rapper Ryan Wood, who used the stage name “Woodie,” frequently proclaimed in songs that his friend Roberson was wrongfully convicted. In one song, Act Accordingly, Wood raps, “police say forever Snoop’s locked down/he’s innocent, you can ask the Yoc Town.” In other songs, Wood implies Roberson took a life sentence rather than identifying the real killers.
But to Antioch police, the case was a straightforward act of retaliation by Norteño gang members targeting rival Sureños. Hours before the shooting, several Sureños committed a drive-by shooting in Pittsburg that left a man paralyzed.
A group of Norteños then drove to the Antioch Veteran’s Memorial Hall, where a family was throwing a quinceañera for a 15-year-old girl that night. According to police, Roberson and a second shooter burst in guns blazing. Prosecutors said at the time a Sureño was present but wasn’t struck by gunfire, and that the five shooting victims were innocent bystanders.
The man who police long suspected of being the second shooter, Carlos Joseph Ramirez — who went by the nickname “Blackbird” — died four years later in a tragic incident that culminated with a SWAT standoff involving more than 100 officers. Ramirez’s brother was the man paralyzed in the earlier Pittsburg shooting.
Though just 22 years old at the time, Ramirez was suspected in multiple homicides and spent years on the lam before police caught up with him in July 1998. That day, he fired at officers and told members of his girlfriend’s family he wouldn’t be taken alive, according to media reports.
Ramirez ultimately barricaded himself in a home on Putnam Street with his young daughters, Kavi and Kayleonna. At the end of a two-day standoff, police heard him count down from five, and then gunfire. Police found Ramirez and the girls’ bodies inside the home, and the case was ruled a double homicide and suicide. Ramirez’s last words were an anguished, “Oh my God,” according to media reports.
Many of Ramirez’s friends still cling to the theory that police fired the fatal shots and covered it up, citing the coroner’s report lists three gunshot wounds to the head, one of which was a graze. After Ramirez’s death, Wood posthumously released tapes of Ramirez speaking on one of his songs, referencing Roberson’s case.
“Gabe’s a West 20th street legend now, you know,” Ramirez says, later adding, “Keep the story alive for the youngsters and s—. Show ’em what a real soldier does when he’s caught behind enemy lines.”
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Author: Nate Gartrell
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