An alleged gang member is due back in court next month after pleading innocent to charges in the killing of a Merced police officer.
“Tao” Rivera pleaded innocent yesterday to charges in connection with the shooting death of officer Stephen Gray in April. Investigators claim since Rivera is a member of a local gang, he knew Gray, who was a gang specialist for the Merced Police Department. Prosecutors have argued that Rivera allegedly killed Gray to further his standing with the gang. If the 22-year-old Rivera is convicted, he could be sentenced to death. Killing a police officer is one of the several circumstances in which a murder conviction can lead to the death penalty.