Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 10, 2011

Gang member, 17, charged with murder of infant

Fabian Zaragoza to be tried as adult, San Mateo County DA's office says

by Sue Dremann and Bay City News Service

A 17-year-old boy suspected of fatally shooting a 3-month-old baby in East Palo Alto early Sunday (June 5) was arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

Fabian Zaragoza, who has been charged as an adult with murder, appeared in court wearing a yellow jumpsuit, with his hair in two long braids. He did not enter a plea and was referred to the public defender's office for representation.

Zaragoza and a 16-year-old boy allegedly approached the infant's parents' car on the 400 block of Wisteria Drive between Sage and O'Connor streets and opened fire as the couple was leaving a baby shower at about 12:50 a.m.

Three-month-old Izack Jesus Jimenez Garcia was shot in the head and later died at Stanford Hospital. His parents, Ivonne Garcia Lopez and Oscar Jimenez, both 22, were also shot but survived their injuries. Izack's 4-year-old brother, Isaiah, was not injured, police said.

Police describe the shootings as a possible case of mistaken identity, motivated by a desire for retribution.

East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said at a Monday (June 6) press conference that the community was shocked by the "heinous" crime.

"We will pursue this to the very end and work with the D.A. to make sure that folks know that East Palo Alto is not a place where you can gratuitously shoot anyone, and certainly, tragically, kill a 3-month-old who had nothing to do with anything related to whatever the circumstances around this case are," he said.

"There hasn't been a dry eye in this office," he added.

Garcia Lopez hobbled with a walker and winced in pain during Monday's press conference and tearfully discussed the shootings. (A video of her remarks is available at www.PaloAltoOnline.com by searching for "VIDEO: Mother".)

She and Jimenez had put their children into booster seats and were just driving away from the shower when two teens approached their car and opened fire through the side window, she said.

Garcia Lopez, sitting in the back seat, threw herself across the children. She said she thought she had shielded the children but when she took the infant out of his car seat, Garcia Lopez saw he had been shot in the head.

"He was such a precious angel. I was so happy to have him in my life. They killed my baby, and they killed part of my soul, too. I'm so devastated. We were just building our family. We were happy," she said.

Garcia Lopez was shot in the buttocks, and Jimenez was shot and sustained multiple broken bones, she said.

Police described the shooting as an act of retribution for a May 31 attack in Redwood City on Zaragoza, whom they described as a known gang member. Members of the Sureno gang allegedly beat Zaragoza during an altercation.

Police said Garcia Lopez and Jimenez were not involved in the May attack and were not the people whom the teens thought they were.

Zaragoza and the 16-year-old, who was arrested for weapons violations, were picked up Sunday after a door-to-door police manhunt in East Palo Alto. Police also interviewed known gang members and parolees. East Palo Alto police Chief Ronald Davis credited residents with providing valuable tips that led to Zaragoza and the other teen.

The pair was arrested a block away from the shooting at a home on the 400 block of Larkspur Drive. Officers found three weapons at the home. Both teens were arrested on weapons charges and booked into San Mateo County Juvenile Hall. In the process of an interrogation, Zaragoza made statements that implicated him in the shooting, Acting Captain Jeff Liu said.

The 16-year-old has not been charged with the shootings at this time, and the department is continuing to gather evidence to determine if he or anyone else will also be charged with the homicide and shootings. The teens are not related, Liu said.

Garcia Lopez said she and Jimenez do not know the shooters.

"We haven't done any bad to anyone — to anyone. I'm a normal citizen. My husband is too. I don't know why they pick on us. They should be in school learning, getting theirselves prepared to be somebody in life, not killers," she said.

"I don't know where their parents were at — I don't know. But I definitely have to say to their parents pay attention to their other kids if they have any. Be involved in their kids' lives. Pay attention to them. Give them love. Because if they don't do, they'll find them on the streets, and they hang out with the wrong people and end up being killers destroying families," she said.

Garcia Lopez and Jimenez were present in the courtroom Wednesday and sat surrounded by family during the proceedings. Garcia Lopez sat in a wheelchair and wept.

In addition to murder, Zaragoza has been charged with the special circumstance of lying in wait, two counts of attempted murder with the infliction of great bodily injury, and use of a firearm in the commission of the crimes, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, Guidotti said. He is being held without bail in a juvenile detention facility and is scheduled to return to court next Wednesday (June 15) to enter a plea.

Guidotti said the DA's office has asked that a booking photo not be released at this time, as the case is still under investigation.

Davis said a $25,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of those involved still stands. Anyone with additional information about the triple shooting is encouraged to call or send a text message to East Palo Alto police at 650-409-6792.

Witnesses can also send tips to epa@tipnow.org.

A memorial fund to help with Izack's funeral expenses, "Izack Jesus Jimenez Garcia memorial fund account," has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank and is accessible at any branch. The account number is 6836571460.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

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