‘She was my first real friend in this town’: Man sentenced for killing woman in Oakland crash, incident where Fremont cops fatally shot teen

‘She was my first real friend in this town’: Man sentenced for killing woman in Oakland crash, incident where Fremont cops fatally shot teen

OAKLAND — A Bay Area man was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the deaths of his pregnant girlfriend and a 21-year-old woman in separate, unrelated incidents, but not until after he heard from one of the victim’s loved ones.

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Rico Tiger, 25, accepted a plea deal in December for convictions of attempted murder, assault on a peace officer, and two counts of vehicular manslaughter. One of those manslaughter counts was for the death of 16-year-old Elena Mondragon, who was shot and killed by Fremont police in March 2017; the other was for 21-year-old Cristel Antunez-Ayala, who was killed when Tiger allegedly rammed her car while attempting to evade Oakland police weeks earlier.

Antunez-Ayala was struck and killed on Feb. 26, 2017, near Bancroft and 90th avenues in Oakland, after police spotted Tiger in a vehicle and began trailing him in anticipation of pulling him over. He allegedly ran a red light at high speed, causing the crash. Tiger was wanted for allegedly being involved in a string of armed robberies and carjackings around the East Bay.

At the time, Antunez-Ayala was simply driving to a Starbucks with a new vehicle she’d spent months saving up for, her sister-in-law, Kelsi Rangel, said at Tiger’s Jan. 10 sentencing hearing.

“She got her bag, her driver’s license, her keys and said, ‘Be right back,’ ” Rangel said in court. “It’s been 2,510 days and she never came back home. That day I lost my best friend, my fiance lost his sister, and my fiance’s parents lost their daughter.”

Rangel described Antunez-Ayala as a person who was “kind and funny and had a beautiful big heart.”

“She was my first real friend in this town,” she added. Earlier in the hearing, Antunez-Ayala’s brother said simply that the family misses her and “in Oakland, we don’t need more wannabe gangsters,” referring to Tiger.

Mondragon’s family didn’t speak at the hearing. She was shot and killed by Fremont officers after allegedly driving at a group of police in a stolen BMW, which contained Mondragon.

Last year, a federal civil jury awarded $21 million to Mondragon’s family, holding Tiger 51 percent liable for her death and three involved Fremont officers 49 percent liable, split three ways. Sgt. Jeremy Miskella, who fired the shot that killed Mondragon, was found 25 percent responsible, while Officer Joel Hernandez, who also fired his weapon, was found 12 percent responsible. A third officer present during the incident, Ghailan Chahouati, was found 12 percent responsible as well.

Tiger was initially charged with murdering Mondragon. At his 2022 preliminary hearing last year, Chahouati testified the officers were attempting to arrest Tiger for a “particularly heinous” string of robberies, which involved suspects blocking victims in with their cars, taking their registrations or drivers licenses, and threatening to come to their homes if they cooperated with police.

The officers’ body cameras weren’t on during the shooting.

The terms of Tiger’s sentence say that he has roughly eight years of the 17-year sentence left to serve, after receiving credit for eight years and nine months for time spent in Santa Rita Jail awaiting a resolution in his case. He was also ordered to pay roughly $9,500 in victim restitution and will serve a probation term upon his release.

Tiger didn’t speak at the hearing, other than confirming he agreed to the plea deal. He signed the change-of-plea form just days before he was set to go to trial for both killings.