Santa Barbara Police announced the arrest of three suspects in connection with the January shooting on the city’s Eastside that left two teens dead and two wounded. Arrested in raids executed in both Carpinteria and Summerland were Oscar Martin Trujillo-Gutierrez, Emilio Perez, and Angel Eduardo Varela; all three were charged with multiple counts: murder, committing more than one murder, and committing murder to further a criminal street gang.
Killed in the January 3 shooting — which took place by Liberty and Canada streets on the city’s Eastside — were Angel Castillo, 17, and Omar Montiel Hernandez, 18. Interim Police Chief Barney Melekian said the arrests marked the culmination of weeks of planning and investigative work.
“While we recognize that nothing we have done here can bring back the lives that we lost, detectives never stopped working the case and hopefully prevented future acts of retaliation, which in turn can lead to more tragedy.”
Since the shooting, parents of the victims — as well as other Eastside residents — had expressed frustration that arrests had not been made sooner, noting that Santa Barbara Sheriff’s officers had apparently solved a double homicide that took place in Goleta much sooner; those killings occurred after the Liberty Street homicides and the victims were white. Rita Castillo, Castillo’s mother, had objected to media insinuations that her son had been killed because he was a gang member. In an interview with the Independent, she emphatically denied her son belonged to any gang and bristled as the perception that his death might be dismissed as “just another gang shooting.”
In the press statement issued by the city police announcing the arrests, Angel Castillo was described as someone with dreams of owning his own auto body shop one day, and Montiel-Hernandez — who had recently graduated from Santa Barbara High School — “as a great big brother who looked out for his younger siblings.” According to Montiel-Hernandez’s mother, her son would tell her, “La vida es tan bonita,” which translates to “Life is beautiful.”
The three suspects were booked into county jail and are being held without bail.