“Francisco lowered the window and fired a single shot,” said Detective Ricardo Hernandez, referring to what 17-year-old Johnny Carranza told him during a police interview.
Hernandez testified before Judge Carter Holly, who will decide if there is enough evidence in the case to have a trial for two men allegedly involved in the Feb. 24 killing of Everuvaldo Cruz-Espino, Limon and Daniel Moses Batchelder, 19.
Batchelder is being charged with attempted premeditated murder, two counts of street terrorism, gun possession and shooting at an occupied vehicle. Limon, who is being prosecuted as an adult, has not had his charges released.
Carranza was reportedly a witness to the killing of Cruz-Espino at the intersection of Tracy Boulevard and Whispering Wind Drive.
Hernandez said during the preliminary hearing Tuesday that Carranza said he was sitting in the middle of the backseat of Batchelder’s Chevy Impala at the time Cruz-Espino was shot.
Hernandez also reported that Carranza said that Limon sat behind Batchelder, who was driving, and that Nick Martinez, 20, sat behind the front passengers seat at the time of the shooting.
The detective shared that Carranza told police Limon commented about seeing Cruz-Espino driving his white Dodge Neon with his cousin Jaime Mejia, 19, in the passenger seat in the lane next to the Impala at the intersection.
He said Carranza told him Limon pulled out a large caliber pistol and shot into the Neon.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott asked Hernandez how Carranza knew what type of gun was used, and the detective said Carranza pointed to a revolver when shown several pictures of guns.
Hernandez also testified that Batchelder was connected to the Norteño street gang.
Ott showed the detective photos that police obtained from Batchelder’s Facebook page, and many of the photos depicted Batchelder wearing red clothing. Group shots showed him and others making signs with their hands.
The detective said both the clothing and actions are believed to represent Norteños.
“Most wouldn’t put these types of pictures on Facebook if they were not gang-related, in my opinion,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also testified to a possible motive of the shooting.
When Ott asked about the actions gangs perform to obtain respect, Hernandez said homicide topped their list.
“No way to get a higher level of respect in their culture,” he said.
Batchelder’s attorney, Timothy Rien, asked Hernandez how police knew about the Facebook page, and he said they monitored a call Batchelder made to his mother or brother while he was at the police station during his interview. He said Batchelder told family members to remove his Facebook account and how to do it.
Rien also contested how police obtained information from Martinez, who testified Monday in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Rien said during cross-examination that Martinez never provided police with a seating arrangement in Batchelder’s car. He said instead police put photos of the people involved on the floor, and Martinez arranged them, which Hernandez said was true.
Hernandez also agreed that Martinez did not identify Batchelder as Cruz-Espino’s shooter, and that Batchelder denied his car was involved in any shooting.
The detective also told the attorney that Limon was identified as the getaway driver by Carranza, not Batchelder.
“(Carranza) said, Francisco ordered him to drive,” Hernandez told the jury. “He said Batchelder panicked, and he didn’t move.”
When Rien asked about Batchelder’s reaction to news that no one had died in the shooting during his police interview, Hernandez said the defendant appeared relieved.
During his cross examination, Limon’s attorney, Harry Hudson, asked if Hernandez knew of any links between Limon and the Neon or its occupants before the shooting. Hernandez said he didn’t know of any.
Hernandez was also asked if Limon was considered an active gang member, to which Hernandez said yes, based on several criteria, including Limon’s clothing and tattoos.
The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue 9 a.m. Wednesday in Department 14 of Superior County Court in Stockton.