For the first time publicly, details are beginning to emerge from law enforcement about what they think happened on the evening of July 4, 2008, when 15-year-old Emmanuel Roldan was killed by a single stab wound that pierced his heart just prior to fireworks festivities on the 200 block of Cabrillo Boulevard along the beach. According to testifying officers in a preliminary hearing that began last week, a group of teenagers and young adults who associated with the Westside gang allegedly headed to the beach-with retaliation in mind-to fight and possibly stab gang members from the Eastside, a rival gang responsible for the stabbings of two Westside gang affiliates in 2007.
But instead of exacting revenge on their rivals, the Westside gang members may have been the ones to accidentally stab a member from their own side. Victor Arroyo, Daniel Cervantes, and the victim’s brother, David, are all minors who allegedly associated with the victim in the Westside gang, and were charged as adults with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, in addition to street terrorism. Miguel Marquez, the only defendant who, at the age of 22, is an adult, faces the same charges. The preliminary hearing-in which Judge Brian Hill will decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial-began April 15.
All the testimony during the hearing thus far has come from Santa Barbara police officers who interviewed witnesses to the incident. Detectives Brian Jensen and Kenneth Kushner were both told by witnesses that, between the poor lighting at the location of the fight and the preponderance of Westside members to Eastside members, the victim could likely have been killed by a confused fellow gang member.
Several officers also testified during the hearing that, according to the witnesses they interviewed, the victim took an active part in the fight against the Eastside members, hitting a rival gang member with a bottle before eventually being stabbed. Witnesses also told police officers that they saw the victim on the ground moments after he was stabbed, though, as of Thursday, none of the police officers who testified had interviewed witnesses who claimed to see the actual stabbing take place. It is unclear which of the four defendants, if any, are directly responsible for the death of Emmanuel Roldan.
According to multiple testimonies from members of the Santa Barbara Police Department, the evening started for many Westsiders at a party at Marquez’s residence. While several were barbequing in the front, a car full of Eastside gang members drove by and taunted his guests with gang signs.
Later that evening, Marquez then allegedly led a group of approximately 15 people, which included the victim and defendant Cervantes, to the beach. Officer Brian Mark Miller claimed that the March 2007 stabbing of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares and the July 2007 stabbing of 16-year-old Lorenzo Carachure weighed heavily on the minds of Cervantes and others as they headed to the beach in search of Eastside members, and Miller alleged that Cervantes admitted his group had plans “to do a stabbing.”
Marquez was allegedly one of the Westside leaders, picking fights on the walk toward the Dolphin Fountain at the intersection of State Street and Cabrillo, and acting so fearless that one witness, a female minor, told Jensen that she wondered if Marquez was armed with a gun. Sgt. James Ella testified that another witness said Marquez was known to be in possession of a knife, though she did not actually see it. Other witnesses also saw at least one Westside member armed with a knife, but they would not tell the officers who that person was. Det. Jose LaTorre, in testimony Friday, said a recorded conversation between David Roldan and a gang associate at the police station revealed that Roldan said he “had a blade.” The other teen responded by saying, “We fucked up good, fool. : We didn’t plan it good, fool.”
The group apparently met up with defendant David Roldan and other Westside associates at the Dolphin Fountain, where the group expanded in size from 15 to approximately 40, according to a guess by the female witness interviewed by Jensen. Several confrontations between the gangs occurred throughout the night, but the witness guessed that only approximately 15 Eastside members were present during the fight that resulted in Roldan’s homicide.
Several witnesses claimed to have been near the victim just moments before he died, but none actually saw it happen. One said that the victim told her to help him find his brother, David. She turned around to look for him, and when she turned her head back, the victim was already down.
Several testimonies suggest that the fourth defendant, Victor Arroyo, is the defendant who is least involved with the death of Emmanuel Roldan. Kushner interviewed a witness who said that Arroyo did not attend the party at Marquez’s house. The witness told Kushner that Arroyo, unlike Marquez, did not have the respect or authority over other Westside group members. But Miller did figure out that Arroyo accompanied Daniel Cervantes, who had cuts on his hands, in the ambulance ride to the hospital, suggesting that he was present during the confrontation on the beach.
Testimony will continue Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.
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Amy Silverstein is an Independent intern.