Charges against a 24-year-old East Palo Alto resident accused of participating in a drive-by shooting have been dropped after a key witness recanted her statement, the San Mateo County District Attorney Office said Thursday.
Daniel Larios was allegedly one of two occupants in a car on Oct. 5, 2013, that drove by a 17-year-old standing outside his East Palo Alto home talking to a family friend. The car drove by twice and on the second time, two people started shooting at him, according to the district attorney's office. The 17-year-old was hit eight times in the stomach and legs.
The district attorney's office alleged that Larios and the 17-year-old are members of opposing factions of the Norteno gang.
"We had from early on an eyewitness to this case, which is what we were relying on," District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. "A person who was nearby who clearly saw and identified initially to the East Palo Alto Police Department including picking Mr. Larios out of a photo lineup -- as the person who had done it."
Wagstaffe said that a prosecutor interviewing the witness in preparation for a preliminary hearing to take place this week determined she had recanted the identification.
"She said she was sort of guessing and she would not be able to say that he is the person," Wagstaffe said. "That was not the only thing we had in the case ... but the key, essential element was her testimony and with that no longer standing, we didn't have a case that would support prosecuting Mr. Larios."
Wagstaffe said the witness "very strongly emphasized" that she had not been threatened or intimidated to change her statement.
Larios, who was initially arraigned on Oct. 9, 2013, had been held in custody with no bail. He was released late Wednesday, Wagstaffe said. This week's was the seventh setting of the preliminary hearing date since that time, the district attorney's office said.
"I'm glad we caught it now if he is an innocent man -- that's our biggest fear," Wagstaffe said.