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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Julian Escobar, 24, was arrested Saturday to face murder, attempted murder, gang and gun charges

Julian Escobar, 24, was arrested Saturday as he drove away from his Pajaro Circle house and will be in court Tuesday to face murder, attempted murder, gang and gun charges, authorities reported.Escobar and another, still unidentified man went to the Apple Hill neighborhood in Watsonville the afternoon of March 21, confronted a group of young men playing basketball on public court and asked what gang they claimed, according to police.Angel Escobedo, 19, and his friends said they weren't involved in gangs. He and the other basketball players fled when gang members pulled a handgun, but Escobedo was shot several times and died.Although police suspect Escobar came to Watsonville to retaliate for a prior incident - which officers are tight-lipped about - Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said the gang member was not seeking out Escobedo in particular."This young man was an innocent victim of the terrible, terrible gang crimes we see," District Attorney Bob Lee said.
Escobedo had grown up in Watsonville but lived in Hollister. He was planning to go into law enforcement or join the military before he was killed, according to Solano.
His death was one of four homicides in the city in 2009. Of those, three were gang-related murders. Police have made arrests in two of the gang killings as well as the fourth homicide.Investigators identified Escobar, an ex-con, as the suspect based on "a new little bit of information" they received last week, according to Watsonville police detective Jarrod Pisturino."It was something that we followed up on and it just snowballed," Pisturino said. "It was very exciting and almost unbelievable."Before Escobar surfaced as a suspect, detectives had chased hundreds of leads in the 10 months since the killing and shown photo lineups to dozens of people, including many Apple Hill residents who cooperated with the investigation.
"We went into the neighborhood immediately afterward," said Solano, highlighting the department's community outreach efforts, including the Post-Incident Team and chaplain program. "I do believe that's why it fostered trust."
In addition to witness accounts, detectives relied on video surveillance from a nearby apartment complex. A police sketch artist made two renderings of the suspect, one of which included a teardrop tattoo below the assailant's left eye.
Escobar has the same tattoo and Pisturino said seeing that marking when detectives pulled up Escobar's mug shot last week helped things click.A judge signed a $1 million arrest warrant Thursday for charges that include the personal use of a firearm, likely meaning he is suspected of firing the deadly shots.Police declined to discuss the evidence in the case or where the tip leading them to Escobar came from. They also did not say if the gun was recovered or confirm that Escobedo was the shooter.Escobar was arrested Saturday morning after Watsonville gang investigators, agents from the county's Anti-Crime Team and Salinas police officers staked out his house and other hangouts for two days.Monday, he was transferred from the Monterey County Jail to the Santa Cruz County Jail.Solano said Escobar doesn't have a history with Watsonville police, but he was arrested by Salinas police in 2005 after he brandished a gun at officers and ran when he was pulled over. Escobar served three years in prison for the incident.


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