Trial begins for Santa Maria man accused of gang shooting death on West Donovan Road

·2 min read

May 21—Opening statements were presented to a jury last week in the trial of Santa Maria man who is accused of a gang shooting death on West Donovan Road in December 2020.

The trial began May 12 for Jesus Juarez Garcilazo, 21, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of 20-year-old Kevin Nunez-Escamilla, according to Deputy Deputy District Attorney Jordan Lockey, who is leading prosecution on the case.

Additionally, Garcilazo is accused of discharging a handgun resulting in death and causing great bodily injury.

The trial is expected to last through the end of May, possibly into June, according to Lockey. Garcilazo pleaded not guilty to all charges on Dec. 24, 2020.

Officers responded to the shooting shortly before 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18, 2020, in the 800 block of West Donovan Road and located Nunez-Escamilla on the sidewalk with a fatal gunshot wound, according to Santa Maria Police Detective Ryan Preast, who added an autopsy later revealed he had sustained two deadly gunshot wounds.

Surveillance camera footage played in court showed Nunez-Escamilla, an alleged member of the local West Park gang, picking up a check from his employer's home before the seemingly chance encounter with Garcilazo, an accused member of the 18th Street gang, which is considered a transnational criminal organization.

Santa Maria Police detectives and members of the Special Enforcement Bureau, along with members of the Tulare County Sheriff's Office, located Garcilazo four days later, on Dec. 22, in the 700 block of Laurel Avenue in the town of Lindsay, approximately 200 miles northeast of Santa Maria.

Officials believe that the shooting was gang-related, due to Garcilazo's and Nunez-Escamilla's alleged gang membership. Investigators had located evidence on Garcilazo's cellphone call logs and social media accounts they believe point to his gang involvement, according to records.

Erica Sutherland, Garcilazo's public defender, has argued that the shooting was in self-defense and that the alleged evidence doesn't indicate gang involvement.

Garcilazo was initially charged with two gang enhancements related to the case, including committing a felony for the benefit of a street gang and gang participation, however they were dropped as of April 22.

"On Snapchat and Facebook, [Garcilazo] had private conversations with a handful of people where he engaged in trash talking," Sutherland said in an April 21 motion to exclude evidence. "These limited, private conversations cannot be deemed public taunting as claimed by the prosecution."

The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Department 8 of Superior Court in Santa Maria.