SANTA CRUZ -- A 23-year-old man testified Wednesday that he saw his codefendant, David Moreno Sanchez, fire shots in the direction of two 14-year-old boys on Dec. 10 near a turnout on Hecker Pass Road.
Jesse Lopez, a Watsonville High School freshman, was killed in the shooting. His friend, who has not been identified, was injured but was able to call 911.
In testimony Wednesday, Juan Soto Gonzalez said that he and a group of other men had gone to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds earlier that night. While there, they picked up the two teen boys, who had been attending a quinceneara. Gonzalez, who was with people affiliated with a Sureño gang, said he believed the teens were affiliated with Norteños.
Gonzalez has pleaded guilty to charges against him in connection with the case with the agreement that he will receive a maximum sentence of six years in prison if he fully cooperates with prosecutors and gives truthful testimony.
Gonzalez said that two cars of people, including the teen boys, then drove to a turnout in South County. He and another man, Carlos Valencia, were standing with the teens while Alex Rodriguez, Sanchez, Uriel Ortiz and two other people were in the other car.
The boys asked to be brought back to the fairgrounds, Gonzalez said, and he went over to tell Rodriguez that he was going to do so. As he walked back to the car he was riding in, he said he heard gunshots.
"I saw David with his hand stretched upward," Gonzalez testified with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter. "I didn't see any weapons but I saw flashes coming from there."
Sanchez, he said, came closer to the two teen boys and he heard one of them say "No, please!"
Members of Lopez' family cried quietly in the courtroom as Gonzalez detailed the events of that night.
The shots stopped for a minute before he heard more shots, and he said at one point, he saw Sanchez bend down toward one of the boys and fire two shots.
Gonzalez and Valencia sped off but Rodriguez called them from the other car and told them to pull over. At one point, he said, Rodriguez and Sanchez changed their shirts and put the ones they were wearing in a garbage bag. Then Rodriguez, Ortiz and Sanchez got in the car with Valencia and Gonzalez, and instructed them to drive to Santa Cruz.
All five men were arrested later that night outside a Santa Cruz convenience store after police responded to reports of people flashing gang signs. Ortiz is charged with causing a disturbance but doesn't face charges for the shootings.
The preliminary hearing will continue Thursday with cross-examination Gonzalez by defense attorneys, who are expected to focus largely on his agreement with prosecutor Steve Moore.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96