The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the public for their assistance and cooperation over the 4th of July holiday weekend. This holiday weekend was an especially busy one for the Sheriff’s Office. The holiday enforcement period began on July 3 at midnight and continued through July 5 at 11:59 p.m. Through the partnership that our office shares with the citizens and visitors of Monterey County the Sheriff’s Office received a total of 864 calls for service over the three-day holiday enforcement period. With the busiest day for calls for service being the 4th of July with 370 calls for service.

During the 4th of July enforcement period we received and responded to a total of 117 fireworks calls, numerous reports of disturbances, shots fired calls, domestic violence calls, robberies, armed gang members, reports of drunk drivers and numerous daily calls for service.

The following were cases of note that occurred during the 4th of July Enforcement period:

COASTAL STATION
On Friday July 3, The Coastal Station and Search and Rescue team responded to a report of two lost hikers on the Cone Peak trail. The hikers were located by the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team and assisted safely off the trail at about 1:30 a.m. on July 4. The hikers were able to continue their 4th of July activities as planned.

SOUTH COUNTY STATION
On July 4 at approximately 7:01 p.m., South County deputies observed Martin Zuniga driving on Highway 101 and determined he had an active arrest warrant. Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic stop on Highway 198 to take Zuniga into custody. Zuniga refused to stop for deputies and continued driving into San Lucas. He continued to evade deputies around San Lucas while deputies were in pursuit for approximately three miles. Pedestrians attempted to get Zuniga to stop for deputies. Deputies attempted to stop the vehicle by conducting a Pursuit Intervention Technique. Zuniga continued to evade deputies before stopping in front of his residence a short time later. Zuniga was found to be in possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. Zuniga was booked into the Monterey County Jail.

CENTRAL STATION
On July 4, at approximately 1:26 a.m., a Central Station deputy was on patrol in the Castroville area. He heard a car driving at a high rate of speed though the Moro Cojo residential area in Castroville. The deputy located the vehicle as it drove at a high rate of speed on Los Ninos Place, towards Castroville Blvd. As the deputy was turning around to proceed after the vehicle, the deputy heard gunshots and was able to see muzzle flashes coming from the dark sedan as it sped off, northbound, on Castroville Blvd.

The deputy pursued the vehicle, which had a significant lead. The vehicle was a black 2010 (or similar) model Dodge Charger. The Charger turned eastbound onto Meridian Rd. The driver of the suspect vehicle, with little regard for the public, accelerated at unsafe speeds and was able to evade deputies. The vehicle was last seen by the pursuing deputy at an extremely high rate of speed traveling eastbound on Meridian Road.

A responding deputy was able to spot the suspect’s Charger as it turned eastbound onto Highway 156 from Meridian Rd. He initiated a pursuit of the vehicle, which again immediately fled by maneuvering into the oncoming lane of traffic and driving recklessly around a semi-truck. The vehicle entered Highway 101 southbound from Highway 156 and proceeded southbound on Highway 101. Deputies pursued the vehicle down highway 101, where the Charger was traveling in excess of 140 miles per hour. The vehicle exited eastbound on Boronda Rd from Highway 101.

Deputies and Salinas Police Officers were in the area of Main St and Boronda Rd at this time, but the vehicle was able to get away unseen.

An additional responding deputy had tried to deploy spike strips in the area of Highway 101 and Boronda Rd, but did not have enough time. He did, however, see the vehicle as it passed. He confirmed the make, model, color, and year range of the Charger.

No deputy was ever close enough to read the license plate on the vehicle. Seventeen 9mm shell casings and seven .22 caliber casings were found and collected at the intersection of Los Ninos Pl and Castroville Blvd.

On July 4, shortly after 11:00 p.m., deputies responded to a report of “5 to 7” subjects firing handguns into the air at the intersection of Speegle and Haight Streets in Castroville. All evening and at the time of this call, large amounts of aerial fireworks were being launched throughout the town of Castroville. The caller insisted the subjects were (1) all armed, and (2) it was gunfire. This intersection is a known gang gathering area and area where numerous violent crimes have been committed. While en route, the reporting party called back three more times to update the call. The last update given was the group on the corner had grown to 30 individuals and guns were still being discharged into the air. Responding deputies met at a location in Castroville, developed a plan of approach and proceeded to the location. The location is a three way intersection.

Upon deputies arriving at the dispatched location deputies immediately encountered a suspect holding a black, semi-auto handgun. The group of gang members also all began running at the sight of deputies. K9 Argos was deployed from his vehicle, given the command to pursue the armed suspect and gave chase. Deputies and K9 Argos pursued the suspect down Speegle St, toward Axtell St. The suspect ran in a group of no less than five people. Challenged and warned of both K9 deployment and the possibility of being shot, the suspect threw his handgun and continued to run among the group.

While still in foot pursuit, one of the five suspects broke away from the group and ran across Speegle St. The suspect was manipulating an unknown item in the area of his front waistband and displaying other characteristics of an armed person. K9 Argos was redeployed towards this suspect as he now presented the greatest threat to the public and deputies. Based on the fact that the suspect was believed to be armed K9 Argos was utilized to apprehend this suspect. The suspect was in fact found to be holding a gun and dropped it upon being bitten by K9 Argos.

The suspect apprehended by K9 Argos was a 17-year-old male, a known gang member, and had been arrested in the past for firearm related offenses. The suspect who was originally seen holding a handgun escaped and there is an ongoing investigation into his identity. The firearm that the unidentified suspect was observed to be holding was recovered after the suspect dropped it behind a parked vehicle as he was fleeing. An additional suspect found hiding under the vehicle had no local criminal history and claimed to live in Oregon, but he had Norteño gang tattoos consistent with being a member of North Side Castroville.

During this rapidly evolving and tense situation, aerial fireworks continued to erupt overhead. Large crowds formed as two nearby and likely associated parties, with over 100 subjects in attendance, came outside. Other, unassociated bystanders were also in the area as a lot of people were still watching the battery of fireworks overhead. Family members quickly approached, angrily addressing the deputies making the arrests. At least one handgun was outstanding and another still was unsecured nearby where the suspect had dropped it. An unknown number of firearms were likely discarded when the large group dispersed.

On scene deputies worked as quickly as practical to secure the one known firearm and locate the one known to be thrown away. Mutual aid from allied agencies was requested. Officers from Seaside Police, Marina Police, and the California Highway Patrol responded. Three coastal deputies responded and four south county deputies responded as well.

AMR was requested to expedite to the intersection of Axtell St and Speegle St for the suspect bitten by our K9. The suspect that had been bitten was extremely vocal and his continued presence on scene was causing the crowd nearby to becoming increasingly agitated and hostile towards deputies. The ambulance was extended from the City of Salinas. Ultimately, a deputy transported the suspect away from the scene and met with the ambulance at a secure location where the subject was transported to Natividad Medical Center for minor injuries.

Ultimately, three firearms were recovered, two of which had been reported stolen. The juvenile was booked into Juvenile Hall and the adult suspect located under the vehicle was booked into County Jail.

This case is an outstanding example of the collaboration between the of the citizens of Monterey County working in partnership with their Sheriff’s Office to get armed and dangerous criminal street gang members and firearms off of the streets of Monterey County. Together in cooperation and partnership with the communities we serve, incidents like this are reported on a daily basis. Due to the community of Castroville taking a stand against gang members in their community, it is now safer with three less guns on their streets.

Unfortunately this call came in during a peak time for calls for service on one of the busiest days of the year. This meant that County Communications and Deputies appropriately prioritized the need for this call to be immediately responded to and suspects confronted. However, this also means that numerous lower priority calls of illegal fireworks went unanswered for several hours. Additionally, other low priority calls were not answered as quickly as the Sheriff’s Office or community would like.

To our law enforcement partners who responded to this incident to assist us including, Marina Police, Seaside Police, Sand City Police and the California Highway Patrol the Sheriff’s Office is grateful for your assistance in allowing us to resolve and calm this situation peacefully. To the Citizens of Monterey County we thank you for your assistance, support and understanding. Our limited resources did not allow us to respond to low priority calls in a timely manner and we’ll work on improving this in the future as our staffing levels improve. Lastly, at no time did the dedicated members of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office let an emergency call for assistance go unanswered or was it left pending.