Police said Monday they are seeking arrest warrants for a "violent trio" of young men whom they believe are responsible for two recent homicides in East Palo Alto and a crime spree in Colorado that included another killing.
One of the men is already in San Mateo County Jail for an unrelated charge, while the other two remain at large, said East Palo Alto police, referring to all three as "persons of interest" because arrest warrants had not yet been issued when they made the announcement. Chief Ron Davis confirmed they are "primary suspects" in the homicides.
Davis credited the community for providing tips that helped police identify the men, at least one or two of whom are being sought in connection with the killings of 19-year-old Cate Fisher on July 13 and 26-year-old Hugo Chavez on July 19.
"Without these tips we would not be here" naming the persons of interest, Davis said.
Police are also asking the community for information about the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man Sunday night. They said it's unknown whether the latest homicide is connected to the other two.
Police said they were working with the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office on Monday to issue arrest warrants for the men, identified as 20-year-old Christian Fuentes, 19-year-old Jaime Cardenas and 24-year-old Fidel Silva, all of East Palo Alto.
Fuentes is in custody on suspicion of a parole violation.
Acting Capt. Jeff Liu said police, working
off tips, had Fuentes' parole officer set up an interview with him. Fuentes was arrested July 19 in Fremont after he failed to show up. He was in custody at the time of Chavez's death and is not a suspect in that case.
"We can't say what evidence is linking (the suspects and cases) but we do have, we think, significant evidence that connects the three," Davis said. "Not all three were at each murder scene, but at least one and not more than three were at the murder scenes."
In between the July 13 and July 19 killings, the men allegedly traveled to Grand Junction, Colo., where they are suspected of committing armed robberies, a burglary and a fatal shooting, all on July 16, East Palo Alto police said.
News releases from the Grand Junction Police Department indicate the men robbed a cash advance shop and a liquor store, then shot and killed a man identified by Colorado news outlets as 31-year-old Jorge Carassco outside a Taco Bell. Another man was shot and a third injured by shrapnel during the assault, police said.
A fourth person, 18-year-old Lester Miranda-Davis, has been arrested on suspicion of also committing the Colorado crimes, but apparently is not connected to the East Palo Alto shootings. Grand Junction police spokeswoman Kate Porras said Miranda-Davis is from Colorado; Liu said the East Palo Alto men were in Grand Junction because Fuentes has an acquaintance there.
Davis said police believe both East Palo Alto homicides were gang-related. The police department is "exhausting all of our resources" to find Cardenas and Silva, he said, but whether the men are in East Palo Alto is not known.
"Clearly we can see the kind of violence and the kind of damage they can do in a short period of time," Davis said.
Police said they do not believe Cate Fisher, a Menlo Park gymnastics teacher, was the intended target of the July 13 shooting. Another man in the car with Fisher and her friend was the target, Davis said.
Fisher's father, Jonathan, said he does not know anything about the man who the women apparently were giving a ride home. Jonathan said his daughter was sitting in the passenger seat and the car's windows were tinted, so the shooter or shooters could not see who they were firing at. He also emphasized that Cate was not involved in drugs.
"We are excited by the possibility that the police have found the people that they think are responsible for Cate's murder," he wrote in an email. "We are hopeful that at least this part of this nightmare will come to a conclusion."
It is not yet known whether Sunday's fatal shooting -- the sixth homicide in East Palo Alto this year -- is connected to the other killings, Liu said. At about 10:25 p.m., a 19-year-old man was killed and an 18-year-old man injured when someone opened fire on them as they stood outside a car in a parking lot at 1489 East Bayshore Road, police said.
Tipsters with information about the recent killings may contact police anonymously by calling or texting 650-409-6792, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davis and East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said the community's outrage over the death of 3-month-old Izack Jesus Garcia-Lopez in June, and subsequent arrest of a 17-year-old boy, has helped convince residents they should report what they know.
"If the community's able to see that the perpetrators of the crime against little baby Izack were apprehended within two days, I think that kind of leads the community to say 'Yes if we cooperate, we can apprehend these criminals and ultimately slow down, we would hope, the violence,'" Romero said.