UPDATE: Murder suspect booked early Wednesday morning

Detectives with the Gilroy Police Department arrested 33-year-old Jerome Moore, of Gilroy, on Feb. 12 and charged him with the murder of another Gilroy man in what began as a physical confrontation near Las Animas Park and became the city’s first homicide of 2014.
Originally thought to be the second victim in the shooting that took place Feb. 11 on the sidewalk in front of the park, Moore was transported via air ambulance to receive treatment after he told first responders he thought he had been shot, GPD Sgt. Pedro Espinoza said.
But they turned out to be puncture wounds, Espinoza confirmed, caused by an “unknown blunt object.”
Another Gilroy man, 68-year-old Martin Gonzales, was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering multiple gunshots to the upper torso. And police allege Moore was the one who pulled the trigger.
The 33-year-old man was arrested at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 12 at the San Jose Regional Hospital on charges of murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance after he recovered from his injuries. He was booked into Santa Clara County Jail at 2:55 a.m., according to police records.
Still, police are trying to piece together a timeline of the confrontation and understand how – and why – it escalated.
Between two and three males were seen by witnesses fleeing the scene after the shooting, and authorities aren’t sure if those men were protecting Gonzales or if they were involved in the murder themselves, according to Espinoza.
“We know that there were other people involved during the latter part of that confrontation or whether those puncture wounds came from those individuals or from the victim. We can’t say for sure who that was,” Espinoza said. “That’s the best we can tell based on what the witnesses are saying.”
Moore is scheduled to submit a plea at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Department 105 of the South County Courthouse in Morgan Hill.
*******
ORIGINAL STORY
What began as a physical confrontation on a sidewalk in front of Las Animas Park ended with one man dead and another critically injured – both from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper torso – in Gilroy’s first homicide of 2014.
A 68-year-old Gilroy man, Martin Gonzales, who police say was homeless at one point, was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday evening by first responders after they attempted CPR. Another victim, a 34-year-old Gilroy man whose name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, was transported via air ambulance to a local trauma center.
The younger victim is expected to survive, Gilroy Police Sgt. Pedro Espinoza said Wednesday.
Police say gunshots from a semi-automatic handgun rang out at approximately 6:10 p.m., prompting multiple residents in the area to call 911.
The GPD, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol quickly set up a crime scene on Mantelli Drive between Wren Avenue and Church Street after the incident. The area was closed off to pedestrians and traffic long into the night.
The following day in San Jose, GPD detectives arrested a male suspect in relation to the homicide, but the weapon had not been located as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Espinoza. Authorities are withholding the suspect’s name and other identifying information until witnesses in a line-up can positively identify him.
According to witness statements obtained by the GPD, there is no indication so far the shooting was gang-related, Espinoza said.
“The victims were not wearing any apparent gang clothing and no witnesses indicated that gang slurs were exchanged,” he explained.
He added that “there is nothing yet to corroborate a dispute over drugs, but it was not a random act. From what we’ve gathered, they (the suspect and victims) had some prior history and the initial physical confrontation escalated into gunshots.”
Police say the victims were shot on the sidewalk at a close range, somewhere between 3 and 10 feet of each other.
“It was not a drive-by shooting or a run-and-gun battle,” Espinoza said.
One man who lives across from the scene on the 400 block of Mantelli Drive said Wednesday he didn’t think it was a shooting when he first heard the loud popping noises.
“Sometimes people have illegal fireworks at the park, so we thought it was fireworks,” said the man, who declined to provide his name.
Friends and family erected a memorial Wednesday for Gonzales at the scene, leaving flowers and balloons on the sidewalk and pausing to reflect on his life and “senseless” death.
Gonzales’ sister-in-law, Rosie Gonzales, said the man’s 11 brothers and sisters, his mother and his aunts and uncles – all from Gilroy originally but now spread across California and Arizona – miss his “helping, loving” spirit.
According to his friends and family gathered at the memorial, Martin Gonzales had an apartment in Gilroy but spent most of his time at Las Animas Park alongside his dog, talking teenagers, homeless individuals and families through problems – even handing out money to the needy.
“I know that when (Martin) was faced with his last moments, I truly believe that he called upon the Lord and that he went to be with God,” she said.
Rosie says she hopes the murderer will repent and “that he will change.”
One of Gonzales’s friends, Elisa Martinez, said she saw him the morning of the shooting and he helped her through some hard times – despite the fact he was battling cancer.
“Now that he’s gone it just hurts. He was my best friend,” Martinez said through tears. “Who could be so heartless?”
Martinez’s sister, Jenevie, said she wants to see Gonzales’s killer charged with murder.
“I just want justice for him because he didn’t need to die,” Jenevie said. “He was a good man and he took care of a lot of people at this park. He would take care of anybody who needed help.”
On Tuesday night, police released information on a possible vehicle of interest – a white Toyota Celica – but authorities located it within hours and determined it was not involved with the crime, according to Espinoza.
In addition to the suspect who has been arrested, the GPD is still trying to locate at least two males who attempted to flee in the vehicle, and determine if they were also involved in the shooting.
The unnamed suspect who police arrested Wednesday did not flee in the vehicle, Espinoza added.
Police are hoping eyewitnesses who may have captured the confrontation and shooting on a cell phone video will share the images with authorities.
“We know that in the case of most fights, some videos do surface nowadays,” Espinoza said. “That’s not to say it was captured on video this particular day, but the likelihood is pretty high.”
The confrontation and shooting were not captured on any surveillance cameras, he confirmed.
In 2013, Gilroy police responded to three separate homicides.
A 21-year-old woman, Alma Roque Ortega, died from blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds to the face and neck on Dec. 25 on the 8100 block of Kelton Drive. Police have charged ex-boyfriend Ernesto Rodriguez, 21 of Gilroy, with her murder and he is scheduled to submit a plea March 11 in Dept. 105 of the South County Courthouse in Morgan Hill.
A 30-year-old man, Jesse Emmanuel Silos, was gunned down April 3 in front of a home on the 7300 block of Chestnut Street, which police say was “gang motivated.” And on Dec. 31, 2012, 51-year-old Elpidio Morales Jr. lost his life after he was shot near the intersection of Old Gilroy and Alexander streets.
GPD Detective Michael Bolton is leading the ongoing investigation into the shooting. Anyone with information is urged to contact (408) 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous may call We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463 (1-800-78-CRIME).

LEAVE A REPLY