“Obviously we have a gang problem,” said Santa Ana Police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bertagna.
“In any shooting, especially when people are driving down the road and people are shooting, [there’s] a concern that innocent bystanders can get hit.”
The latest killing happened Feb. 6, where police said Nick Torres was shot dead at Bear Street and MacArthur Boulevard about 9:12 p.m. A female passenger in his BMW was uninjured.
According to a police report, a witness saw a green SUV traveling eastbound on MacArthur Boulevard accelerate next to the gray BMW, and heard three to five gunshots before watching the green SUV drive away.
Another witness reported hearing five gunshots and seeing a green SUV speed southbound on Bear Street.
“I don’t know what led to this shooting,” Bertagna said. “I believe there was an altercation between these two individuals, so it wasn’t a random target, but what led to that, I don’t know.”
Responding patrol officers spotted a green Chevy Trailblazer traveling northbound on Harbor Boulevard, and after pulling the SUV over, arrested the three men inside.
The witnesses who saw an SUV fleeing the scene confirmed the identity of the SUV as the one they witnessed.
Homicide detectives arrested and charged three men for murder, assault with firearm on person, and other gang-related charges.
The suspects—22-year-old Alfredo Ivan Pulido, 21-year-old Leonel Diaz, and 21-year-old Jason Garcia—are all from Santa Ana.
Police believe the shooting was gang related.
Gang violence is nothing new for Santa Ana, which has already seen three to four gang-related homicides this year, according to Bertagna.
“We’re always trying to control the problem, but the focus is through our directed control units; our metropolitan division is concentrating on the gang issue, and guns,” Bertagna said. “So, it’s something that we’re focused on and have been for a while.”
Scott Sittler, the victim, died from his injuries in 2009, about 15 years after the shooting, which led to years of a multi-agency collaboration to extradite Giovanny Edgar Sanchez, one of the gang members involved, back to the United States to face an upgraded murder charge.
Sanchez was escorted back to Orange County on Feb. 2 by the FBI’s fugitive task force in Orange County. He is being held without bail at the Theo Lacy Facility in Santa Ana and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 21.
“The pursuit of justice never ends,” Todd Spitzer, Orange County District Attorney said in a prepared statement. “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. 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. The long arm of the law will always catch up with you.”