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Gilroy
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November 28, 2021

Jewelry store fight between brothers turned deadly, report states

Owner acted in self-defense, according to attorney

The owner of a Gilroy jewelry store shot and killed his brother during an altercation between the two men inside the business on June 24, according to a report by a Gilroy Police detective.

The suspect’s attorney, however, said he was acting in self-defense to protect himself and his family.

Jose Francisco Valiente-Martinez, 44, admitted to shooting Jose Nelson Martinez Suncin, 39, after he said his brother threatened to kill him, according to a “Statement of Facts” document submitted by Gilroy Police to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. The men had allegedly been arguing after Suncin accused Valiente-Martinez of “sexual intercourse with a woman in common to each of them,” investigators said.

Detectives reviewed video surveillance and interviewed two witnesses inside the business as well as Valiente-Martinez in trying to piece together the string of events that led to the Gilroy man’s death inside Littlejohn’s Fine Jewelry on the 8200 block of Monterey Street.

According to police, at about 1pm, officers responded to the business after receiving a 911 call from a witness who reported that “Jose Valiente shot his brother” in the head.

Arriving officers reportedly found Valiente-Martinez, the owner of the store, kneeling next to Suncin’s body, saying “I did it” and “He was going to shoot me with my own gun.” Valiente-Martinez was arrested at the scene.

Detectives believe Suncin entered the business and punched Valiente-Martinez in the face, the document states, and called a woman into the store to “provide the details of the relationship to Jose, [redacted] and Nelson.”

Suncin, reportedly armed with a pocket knife, “threatened to kill everyone,” according to investigators, and walked to a gun safe in the store and retrieved a pistol.

Investigators believe that Suncin tried to disengage the safety on the pistol, but gave up and dropped it on the floor, as Valiente-Martinez pulled out a revolver and pointed it at Suncin. Suncin ducked out of the way as Valiente-Martinez fired a single shot, according to the report.

Suncin “appeared to try to make his way to the front door, the only entry and exit to the building,” investigators said. Valiente-Martinez continued to follow Suncin, the report stated, and as he stood “about one to one-and-a-half steps” away from the man, he fired a shot, striking Suncin behind his left ear, killing him.

Investigators say that the gun Suncin pulled from the safe was a BB gun, and believe he gave up on it once he realized it wasn’t a real gun. Through video surveillance, the detectives observed Valiente-Martinez after the shooting appear to swap the BB gun with the revolver he had fired, the report stated.

The BB gun was found “hidden in a box” during the investigation, detectives said.

Roland Soltesz, the attorney representing Valiente-Martinez, said he didn’t believe the claim that his client was trying to hide the BB gun was accurate. 

He called the incident a “clear-cut case of self-defense,” as Suncin showed up unannounced to the store and threatened to kill members of Valiente-Martinez’s family, whom Soltesz said were hiding in a back room of the jewelry store as the fight unfolded.

“We think it’s clear he was in jeopardy up to the moment his brother passed,” he said. “His brother created an extremely hazardous situation. He was a very dangerous man they were clearly afraid of.”

Soltesz said Valiente-Martinez is a longtime member of the Gilroy community who worked at Littlejohn’s Fine Jewelry for 18 years, the last five as the owner.

Valiente-Martinez was charged with murder, and is being held at Santa Clara County Jail on $1 million bail. He is due in court for a preliminary examination on July 6.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Jason Greathead at 408.846.0373. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the Tip Line at 408.846.0330.

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