‘Pursuit of Justice’ Leads to Extradition in 1994 Santa Ana Gang Shooting

February 7, 2021 Updated: February 7, 2021

The Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office has extradited and charged a man from Guatemala in connection with the fatal shooting of a rival gang member 26 years ago.

“The pursuit of justice never ends,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a Feb. 5 press release. “No matter how long it takes or how far we have to go, we will never give up on holding someone accountable for killing another human being.”

The case dates back to Sept. 24, 1994, when 19-year-old Scott Sittler was shot in the head in Santa Ana.

About two years later, brothers Erwin Sanchez and Giovanny Sanchez, as well as Daniel Paul Cruz, pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges.

Giovanny Sanchez was sentenced to 11 years in state prison and was released in 2006. He was held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody until early 2009, when he was deported to Guatemala.

Also in 2009, the attack that left attack left Sittler a quadriplegic ultimately killed him. He died after spending 15 years on a respirator. County coroners testified that the 1994 gunshot wound triggered a fatal train of events that directly led to the death.

Following Sittler’s death, Erwin Sanchez was convicted in 2011 of one felony count of first-degree murder for shooting him in the head, one felony enhancement of participating in a criminal street gang, and one felony enhancement of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 29 years to life.

Cruz pleaded guilty in 2013 to one felony count of voluntary manslaughter and admitted a felony enhancement of participating in a criminal street gang and a felony enhancement of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 14 years in state prison.

Giovanny Sanchez was charged in June 2009 with one felony count of murder, one felony count of street terrorism, with felony sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and being armed with a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office began extradition proceedings for Giovanny Sanchez after the new charges were filed.

Multiple agencies spent years working on his extradition to the U.S. before an FBI fugitive task force escorted him from Guatemala back to Orange County on Feb. 2.

“My investigators and prosecutors have worked tirelessly to bring this final suspect back to the United States to have his day in court, and that day is finally here,” Spitzer said. “The long arm of the law will always catch up with you.”

Sanchez is being held without bail at the Theo Lacy Facility. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 24.

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