With the hustle and bustle of State Street holiday weekend shoppers a mere half block away, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez climbed the steps of City Hall to announce this afternoon that nine suspects, five of them minors, had been taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy along Cabrillo Boulevard the previous night. One of the suspects, also 15 years old, is believed to be the stabber.
Joined by an all-star crew of elected officials representing both the County and the City of Santa Barbara, Sanchez, though declining to name the victim, painted a chaotic picture of the scene along Santa Barbara’s waterfront shortly after 8 p.m. on July 4. Mere minutes before the massively attended fireworks show began, at least three teenagers were stabbed in what authorities are calling a “gang-related” crime. Promising that the investigation is anything but over, Sanchez, who was visibly shaken at times during the press conference, told reporters, “This is just craziness when young people are making decisions to hurt each other and kill each other. It is plain stupid.”
According to Sanchez, officers first responded at approximately 9:15 p.m. to a victim near the Dolphin Fountain at Sterns Wharf who was suffering from a non-fatal stab wound. During that process, other officers noticed a second victim in the 200 block of East Cabrillo, who appeared to be suffering from multiple stab wounds. Despite the resuscitation efforts of an off-duty doctor and an off-duty EMT (emergency medical technician) who happened to be on the scene, as well as the ambulance crew that responded, the second discovered victim was pronounced dead a short while later at Cottage Hospital. A third stabbed teenager, who said his injuries happened in an incident near Cabrillo Boulevard, was brought to Cottage Hospital by his family minutes after police discovered the second victim, Sanchez said. He was treated and eventually released, Sanchez said. Describing the “half a block long, half a block wide, and chaotic” crime scene right in the heart of the Fourth of July festivities, Chief Sanchez praised his officers’ police work under such hectic conditions. “We were on it, and we were on it immediately,” said Sanchez.
With more than 50 interviews with witnesses and possible suspects already under their belt, investigators have arrested not only the young man who they believe to be the stabber, but also four other minors: a 17-year-old for conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and gang activity, a 15-year-old for active participation in a gang, a 13-year-old for conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and gang affiliation, and yet another 15-year-old for conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and gang affiliation. Police arrested four adults: 21-year-old Miguel Marquez, 20-year-old Manuel Lira, 19-year-old Richard Garcia, and 18-year-old Edwin Miguel, all for active participation in a criminal street gang. And, according to Sanchez, there will most likely be more to come in the next few days as investigators try to make sense of the events leading up to the stabbing–including a purported 20-person gang melee in the same vicinity a few hours prior. “We are working our way through, trying to put this together as best we can,” the chief explained, “but we won’t know all the details for at least couple of days.”
Many members of the public criticized the City of Santa Barbara for going ahead with its Independence Day party despite the raging Goleta Gap Fire little more than a dozen miles away. At Saturday’s press conference, however, Chief Sanchez promised that while his officers were indeed “on stand-by” for the fire, the wildfire had zero impact on police presence near the waterfront Friday night. Explaining that more than 80 officers were on duty, Sanchez said simply of their response to the stabbings, “We were everywhere; we were all downtown and at the beach. . . . None of our officers were at the fire.”