Police Make Arrests in Santa Barbara’s Third Gang Killing of the Year

Two Teens and a 39-Year-Old Woman Taken into Custody

A view of the Santa Barbara Police Station. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara police have arrested three people in connection with the March 29 shooting on the city’s Lower Eastside that killed 24-year-old Oxnard resident Jesus Espinoza-Maldonado. 

First responders found Espinoza-Maldonado gravely injured in a black SUV that was riddled with bullets and had crashed into a palm tree in the 1400 block of Eucalyptus Hill Road before catching fire. No one else was hurt.

Police spokesperson Lt. Joshua Morton said two Santa Barbara juveniles, ages 15 and 17, have been booked at Juvenile Hall on murder charges with gang enhancements. Their names and other identifying information are being withheld due to their age.

A third suspect ― 39-year-old city resident Irene Fernandez ― was also arrested and charged with acting as an accessory to a felony as well as gang murder with use of a firearm.

“The police department would like to thank the community members who assisted with the investigation, as well as the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office for their help during the initial shooting,” said Morton in a statement.

“Although arrests have been made, the investigation is still ongoing and no further details are being released at this time,” he went on. “Detectives would like to encourage anyone with information about this case to contact Santa Barbara Police Department detectives at 805-897-2300.”

The shooting, which took place around 5:20 p.m. just below Salinas Street, marked the second time this year that deadly gunfire has erupted in the Eastside neighborhood. 

In January, two teens were shot and killed on Liberty Street one day before classes were scheduled to resume at Santa Barbara High School. That incident remains under investigation.

Elsewhere in the county, two men were gunned down in February near Goleta as they attempted to sell a half pound of marijuana. A pair of alleged Santa Barbara gang members were arrested for the murders, and their arraignment is pending.

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