Updated: Police say Hollister shooting was an accident

This is the home where the shooting occurred. Police arrested

Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the
shooting death of a 14-year-old Hollister girl early Saturday
morning, while investigators say the

primary suspect

now in custody accidentally fired the weapon, hitting the girl
in her chest.
Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the shooting death of a 14-year-old Hollister girl early Saturday morning, while investigators say the “primary suspect” now in custody accidentally fired the weapon, hitting the girl in her chest.

Police officials at a press conference Monday morning revealed that the incident at East Park Street and Sherwood Drive involved an accidental discharge of the handgun. Two male suspects were arrested early Monday morning – a 15-year-old suspected of shooting the gun and a 16-year-old who police allege was an accessory in helping him flee from authorities. Both were found hiding near the area and they are booked at San Benito County Juvenile Hall.

The victim in the shooting, 14-year-old Genevieve Destefanis, was with a group of juveniles that included the two residents arrested Monday along with the “person of interest” – Robert Rodriguez, 17 – wanted in the case. Prior to the shooting outside a home near Rancho San Justo Middle School, the group fled from contact with police who had been responding to a disturbance call, and ended up at the home on East Park Street and Sherwood Avenue, Police Chief Jeff Miller said Monday.

Miller said those involved fled after discharging the gun, which investigators located Monday in the same area they found the two suspects. While the primary suspect is facing a recommended charge of manslaughter, the second suspect will have a recommended charge from police of being an accessory to the crime – on suspicion of aiding the other juvenile’s escape. As Miller noted, the San Benito County District Attorney’s Office will decide on official charges.

Additional details released Monday included a police description of the shooting. From witness statements, police determined that the 15-year-old had been handling the firearm when it accidentally discharged. The bullet struck Destefanis, who immediately collapsed, according to a statement. Police alleged that the other juveniles fled and discarded the gun.

That gun, Miller contended Monday, had been in the possession of a known gang member before Saturday’s shooting. Though the death did not have gang ties, the chief said the incident “does have a nexus” with local gang activity.

“It’s imperative that people know who their kids are associated with,” Miller said during the press conference, during which officials announced a peace rally scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday on the Briggs Building lawn.

Police responded around 2:40 a.m. Saturday to the house. Police found the girl on the lawn area close to the sidewalk bordering the street, said Hollister police Capt. David Westrick, along with neighbors who witnessed the aftermath and pointed out where authorities blocked off the body.

A woman at the scene late Saturday morning, across Sherwood Avenue near the lawn where authorities found the wounded girl, was visibly distraught and identified herself as the victim’s aunt. Sobbing, she questioned continually why her niece had been shot and killed.

“She was just looking for a boyfriend,” said the woman, mentioning her deceased niece’s age as 14, before walking away during an interview to gather herself.

Isidro Fregoso lives across the street and observed the police investigation after her death.

“It’s just a child, man,” Fregoso said. “It’s very sad. There’s nothing we can do.”

Fregoso was among several residents Saturday who expressed concern about increasing criminal activity in the neighborhood. As he talked about the homicide, he pointed just a block away and recalled a shooting that occurred early last Sunday, April 24, in the 1000 block of Sherwood Drive. In that occurrence, someone fired a single shot into a residence and struck a man walking in the hallway, causing a minor wound.

At the house where the homicide occurred, three residents came to the door – an adult woman and man, along with a male who is either a teenager or young adult – but they declined to comment on the situation. The property sits on the southeast corner at the intersection, a block from Rancho Drive.

It was otherwise quiet in the neighborhood on the sunny day. Of the neighbors in the area, some knew of the early-morning homicide and most were aware that police had responded to something there.

Westrick on Saturday said investigators with the police department and sheriff’s office checked for clues throughout the area after the incident, reported by an anonymous caller who noted there had been one shot fired.

Responders initially made efforts to resuscitate the girl, Westrick said. After she was pronounced dead at the scene, the department called for all of its resources Saturday morning to help in the investigation and search, and got assistance from the county sheriff’s office.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the victim,” Westrick said. “We’re hoping for swift justice.”

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