Daniel Batchelder, 19, and Francisco Limon, 16, both of Stockton, will be tried for the shooting death of Everuvaldo Cruz-Espino.
The Tracy man was killed while driving north in a Dodge Neon at the intersection of Tracy Boulevard and Whispering Wind Drive around 2 p.m. Feb. 24.
After a three-day preliminary hearing in San Joaquin County Superior Court, Judge Carter Holly ruled Batchelder should be held to answer on changes of attempted premeditated murder, two counts of street terrorism, gun possession and shooting at an occupied vehicle.
Limon, who is being prosecuted as an adult, is going to trial on similar charges, according to court documents.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” said Tracy Detective Ricardo Hernandez, who was a witness at the hearing. “He (the judge) obviously feels there is enough to move on in the court process.”
During the hearing, at least one witness identified Limon as the shooter, who allegedly rode in the backseat of Batchelder’s Chevy Impala with other passengers Nick Martinez, 20, and Johnny Carranza, 17.
According to Hernandez, both Carranza and Martinez told police Batchelder drove up to the Neon at the intersection, with the driver’s side of the Impala nearest the Neon’s passenger side.
While both drivers waited for the light to change, Hernandez said Carranza told him in a police interview that Limon rolled down the Impala’s driver’s-side back window and fired a single shot at the Neon.
Cruz-Espino was fatally wounded in the neck, and he later died at a regional hospital.
Cruz-Espino’s 19-year-old cousin Jaime Mejia was in the Neon’s passenger seat, Hernandez said, and was not injured in the shooting.
The police detective said Carranza told him that Limon used a large caliber pistol in the shooting. Carranza reportedly pointed to a revolver when shown several pictures of guns by police.
Both defense attorneys, Timothy Rien representing Batchelder and Harry Hudson representing Limon, cross-examined Hernandez at length.
Rien questioned Hernandez about Batchelder’s alleged role in the incident, his supposed connection to the Norteño street gang, and how police obtained information about the Impala’s seating arrangement.
Hernandez testified that Martinez said Batchelder was not the shooter and that Carranza identified Limon as the person who drove the car from the scene of the alleged crime.
Facebook photos allegedly showing Batchelder wearing red and making hand signals led Hernandez to believe the suspect is connected to a gang, he said.
The detective added that Martinez confirmed Carranza’s seating arrangement by laying out photos on the ground.
Hernandez also told Hudson that he didn’t know of any connection between Limon and Cruz-Espino before Limon was allegedly involved in the shooting. Hernandez also said he believed Limon was a Norteño member based on his clothing and tattoos.
However, they did not raise enough doubts to prevent the case from going to trial.
Batchelder is being held in San Joaquin County Jail without bail, while Limon is being held on $5 million bail at the juvenile justice center, both in French Camp.
Both defendants are scheduled to appear in the Stockton courthouse at 9 a.m. June 27 for arraignment in Department 14.