CARLSBAD — Prosecutors have filed an additional charge against a 27-year-old man being held in connection with what authorities believe was the accidental shooting of gang member in Carlsbad last month.
At Jose Angel Barraza’s bail review hearing in a Vista courtroom May 8, Deputy District Attorney Geoff Allard added a single felony count of threatening a witness to Barraza’s criminal complaint.
Barraza had already been charged with one felony count of a felon in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors allege a picture of the murder weapon was found on Barraza’s cell phone.
Superior Court Judge Robert Kearney denied Barraza’s request to have his bail reduced. He remains in custody on $1 million bail and has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
If convicted, he now faces seven years to life in prison, Allard said outside the courtroom.
The prosecutor said the new charge stems from a text message the defendant sent April 5, one day after police found Juan Carlos Balderas’ body near Pine Park at Chestnut Avenue and Madison Street in Carlsbad.
According to the medical examiner’s office, Balderas, 21, died from two shotgun wounds.
In 2007, Barraza, a documented gang member, was released from prison after serving time for a 2005 car theft conviction.
The handful of supporters who have attended his hearings, which includes close friends and his boss, contend Barraza has been working hard over the last two years to straighten out his life. “A person can change and he did it,” Olga Vasquez, a lifelong friend, said outside the courtroom.
“He just wants to get his life back,” Vasquez said. “He’s a good person with a good heart.”
Vasquez said she believed Barraza sent the text message to the victim’s sister in attempt to separate himself from the murder after Balderas’ sister sent an angry text message to Barraza’s girlfriend about his role in the shooting.
Two other Encinitas gang members are charged in connection with the murder of Balderas.
Javier Antonio Lopez, 19; and Victor Virgilio Lopez, 21; are charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit murder in conjunction with a criminal street gang. Additionally, Javier Lopez is also charged with murder and attempted murder.
Carlsbad police Lt. Kelly Cain said he believed Balderas, Javier Lopez and Victor Lopez went to Carlsbad on April 4 looking to shoot and kill any Carlsbad gang members as retaliation for the nonlife threatening shooting of Javier and Victor Lopez’s cousin in February outside a house party in the 2300 block of Pio Pico Drive in Carlsbad.
Cain said Balderas may have been accidentally shot by his fellow gang members after a fight broke out between the two gangs near Pine Park.
Javier and Victor Lopez remain in custody on $5 million bail. The trio’s next scheduled court appearance is set for May 21.