When Saul Santana went looking for revenge, he found it in Anthony “Ace” Colon.
It was the bloody summer of 2009, and Santana, a 10th Street Gang member, was seeking retaliation for the shooting of his cousin, fellow gang member Edwin Rivera.
Santana found Colon, the rival Seventh Street Gang member who shot his cousin, on Ullman Street in Riverside and in broad daylight shot him several times in the back.
Colon died later that day.
“I did that dude dirty,” Santana later told Rivera.
Santana, who also was shot in retaliation a few months later, was sentenced Monday in federal court to 27 years in prison.
His sentencing marks the latest chapter in the 10th Street Gang prosecution, one of the biggest organized-crime cases in Buffalo in decades.
At the heart of the prosecution are five murders, including the slayings of two innocent neighbors caught in crossfire, and the allegation that the defendants acted collectively, as part of a criminal enterprise, to sell drugs and terrorize their West Side neighborhood for nearly a decade.
“I did this to myself,” Santana told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. “No one else is to blame.”
His mother, weeping in the courtroom, could be heard saying, “I love you.”
“I took the life of another human being,” Santana said, “and that can never be replaced.”
Santana’s defense lawyer acknowledged his client’s role in the war between the 10th and Seventh Street gangs – he was one of the first gang members to be charged in the case – but suggested his actions were the product of a world most people can’t even fathom. It was a world that saw Colon shoot Rivera, Santana shoot Colon, and another Seventh Street Gang member shoot Santana.
“That’s just a microcosm of the case,” said James P. Harrington, Santana’s defense attorney, “but it defines the world these young men were living in.”
Federal prosecutor Joseph M. Tripi agreed but reminded Arcara that Santana’s regret didn’t become evident until after he was charged with Colon’s killing.
“The war between the two gangs heated up, and Mr. Santana was part of that,” Tripi said of that summer on Buffalo’s West Side. “At the time, there was no remorse.”
Santana pleaded guilty last year to taking part in a racketeering conspiracy but, as part of his plea deal, admitted killing Colon on June 26, 2009, in an act of revenge.
“They have a code,” Arcara said. “It’s too bad the culture he was in caused him to do what he did.”
Formed in the late 1980s, the 10th Street Gang dominated the West Side neighborhood bounded by Niagara Street on the west, Richmond Avenue on the east, Auburn Avenue on the north and Carolina Street on the south.
The government’s investigation of the gang resulted in 38 people being charged; many of them have taken plea deals. About 20 reputed gang members still face felony charges, including murder or attempted murder.
The investigation was overseen by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, a coalition that includes Buffalo Police and State Police.