D.A.’s office identifies 15-year-olds charged with murder in Stearns Wharf case
The District Attorney’s Office has released the names of the two 15-year-olds with alleged ties to Ventura County gangs who have been charged with murder in connection with the Dec. 9 shooting death of an innocent bystander on Stearns Wharf.
One of the teens appeared in Juvenile Court on Thursday for further proceedings, Senior Deputy District Attorney Tate McAllister told the News-Press.
“Minor Matthew Lopez continued his case to 3/28,” the prosecutor said. “The other minor, Adan de la Cruz, is set for that date already, also for further proceedings.
“Further proceedings,” he said, “just means that the court and the parties will appear to address any issues that need to be addressed and check on the status of the case.”
The two teens have denied the murder charges filed against them.
The District Attorney’s Office will not seek to try them as adults in Superior Court where their sentences would be a lot stiffer if they were convicted.
“The law was recently changed to prohibit the transfer of 14- and 15-year olds to adult court, so the juveniles must be tried as juveniles,” Prosecutor McAllister said.
A third juvenile, 16, has been charged with being an accessory after the fact to
murder, and with illegal possession of an unregistered firearm, but the prosecutor confirmed he cannot discuss that minor’s case or release his name.
“Per Welfare and Institutions Code section 676, I can discuss only minors charged with murder,” he said.
Prosecutors allege the two teens charged with murder engaged in a firefight with four young adults from Santa Barbara with alleged ties to a Santa Barbara gang, and that the bystander, Robert Dion Gutierrez, 52, of Camarillo, got trapped in between the two groups.
Mr. Gutierrez was walking on the Santa Barbara wharf with his wife when the shooting erupted. According to police, he “was struck and killed by one of the rounds fired” during the altercation.
Mr. Gutierrez was treated at the scene for his gunshot wound and taken to the hospital, where he died on Dec. 20.
“One group involved in the altercation has been identified as local Santa Barbara area residents with ties to a local Santa Barbara street gang,” police said. “The opposing group in the altercation has been identified as Ventura County residents with ties to Ventura County street gangs.”
Prosecutors allege the Santa Barbara group was driving on the wharf when they spotted the Ventura County juveniles and confronted them, dispatching two of their group to attack them with a gun.
The four Santa Barbara defendants have pleaded not guilty. They’re scheduled to return to court April 6 to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
The three juveniles were arrested by Santa Barbara Police Department officers on Feb. 16. Their arrests were the result of an intense police investigation to identify and bring to justice additional suspects following the Jan. 19 arrest of the four adult defendants from Santa Barbara.