Tuesday night, shortly before 9 pm, Richard Juarez, a 20-year-old Hispanic male, was fatally shot at Virginia Avenue Park on Pico and 20th streets in Santa Monica.
At approximately 8:52 pm four individuals were in Virginia Avenue Park when two suspects walked towards them from Pico Boulevard and began shooting. Three of the four individuals ran and were able to avoid being struck by gunfire. Santa Monica Fire Department paramedics were called to the scene, and found the fourth individual, Juarez, deceased.
A police sergeant was driving in the area of the 2100 block of Pico Boulevard when he heard the shots. He saw two possible suspects running from the park area, toward a vehicle occupied by two other males. The sergeant drove behind the vehicle and the two suspects on foot continued running South onto 22nd Street and out of sight. The vehicle and its occupants were detained while a perimeter was established to contain the two suspects that fled on foot.
One of the suspects was found hiding under a van to the rear of a residence during a K9 search. K9 and SWAT officers located the second suspect hiding in the rear yard of a vacant home. A total of four suspects, two who were in the car and the two who fled on foot, were taken into custody and booked at the Santa Monica Police Department.
Sgt. Dave Hunscke told the Mirror that the descriptions and details of any charges made against the four arrested suspects would not be released until investigators have finished their work.
Hunske said that Wednesday afternoon, the incident was being considered “possibly gang related” but the police department was unwilling to definitively say it was a official gang incident until the investigation is concluded.
This isn’t the first incident in the Pico neighborhood, several gang-related shootings have occurred there in recent years. Virginia Avenue Park is a popular spot, known for it’s interactive water area for kids and free Wi-Fi access.
Jaurez was a former student of Samohi Santa Monica High School. Wednesday, the school’s principal, Dr. Hugo Pedroza, sent a message to student’s families ensuring that the school is providing “all support necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all our students” and that increased security would be on hand for Friday’s football game against Inglewood “so that the match goes as smoothly as possible.”
Additionally, Pedroza said that grief counselors are available to students and adults who may need it.
This investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to call the Santa Monica Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division at (310) 458-8451 or the Watch Commander at (310) 458-8427 (24 hours). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call We Tip at 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-78-27463).