Four arrests made in Libby Lake shooting

Four arrests made in Libby Lake shooting
(Left to right) Divina Hernandez, of neighborhood services, Oceanside Police Captain Ray Bechler and officer Dolce Fish update residents on recent arrest related to the March 13 shooting. Suspects arrested are Martin Melendrez of Vista, Michael Zarita of Vista and Santo Diaz of Oceanside. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Police announced four arrests have been made in the March 13 shooting that killed two teens and injured two others at Libby Lake Park. 

The crime is determined to be gang related.

Search warrants that were served by the U.S. Marshals, ATF, San Diego FBI and SWAT teams from Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido on March 30, brought in three adult suspects and one juvenile suspect. They were charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of participation in a criminal street gang.

The adult suspects are Martin Melendrez, 19, of Vista; Michael Zarita, 19, of Vista; and Santo Diaz, 18, of Oceanside. A dark gray 2011 Toyota Tacoma extended cab pickup was also recovered. The pickup truck was seen at the crime scene and is registered to one of the suspects.

“To have four arrest in two weeks in a double murder is outstanding,” said Lt. Aaron Doyle, of the Oceanside Police Department. “Oceanside has a 100 percent solvability rate with murders.”

While information on the gang that is involved cannot be shared at this time, Doyle said the department is being as transparent as possible during the ongoing investigation.

Police officers met with residents at the Libby Lake Community Center on April 2 for a community meeting that was scheduled before the arrests were made. More than 60 residents filled the room.

Information was shared on the arrests and an update was given on additional safety measures that will be implemented.

Capt. Ray Bechler said park trees will be trimmed, additional lights will be added around the lake, and security cameras will be installed.

He added that the memorial shrine that was put up by residents for the victims who were fatally shot in 2011 will be taken down and the hill were it is located will be graded.

The recent victims were at the memorial site when they were shot.

In addition to park safety measures a gang injunction is in place and additional police patrols have been added to the neighborhood.

“As a parent I’m scared and don’t want to see any more kids dying,” a resident said.

Another resident said he is alarmed that there have been eight deaths in the neighborhood in the last eight years.

Bechler said trust and relationship building between the Police Department and residents needs to be worked on.

Residents were urged to report anything that looks suspicious.

“You know your area and who should be there,” Officer Dolce Fish said.

During the meeting Lt. Leonard Cosby, who patrols the neighborhood, asked residents, police officers, city officials, church members and service providers to join hands in a demonstration of unity.

“I understand fear,” Cosby said. “If we hold hands together we’re stronger than anybody.”

Anyone with more information on the crimes should contact Detective LaVake at (760) 435-4872 or the anonymous TIP line at (760) 435-4730.

A Libby Lake Garcia Family Aid account has been set up at Chase Bank to help support the victim who was shot six times and remains in the hospital. Donations can be made to Chase Bank account # 2972132043.

 

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