Breaking News Blog

Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 07:58 PM

Cops: gang-bangers' night of terror left a trail of death and fear

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

He was parked at the eastside curb in the 1000 block of King Street, hoping to meet a woman he'd contacted through an online singles website.

The motorist was on the phone with the woman shortly after 1 a.m. Sept. 12 when a vehicle pulled alongside him and a passenger asked, "Where you from?"

The motorist, thinking he was being asked if he was a gang member, responded, "I don't bang."

The passenger raised a gun and fired, striking the startled motorist in his right hand as he hit the gas and sped away. The motorist quickly lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a light pole at the southwest corner of Baker and Lake streets.

He slumped over, pretending he was dead in the hope that the suspects would just drive on by. When the suspects passed, the motorist ran to a nearby apartment complex and hid until he saw flashing lights of approaching police cruisers.

The man was injured and his date night ruined, but things could have ended a lot worse. Two other men were shot dead during a series of robberies that rocked east Bakersfield over a span of a few hours that morning.

The injured man's story was among pages of redacted reports filed by Bakersfield police in Kern County Superior Court. The reports shed more light on the alleged actions of suspects Eric Castilleja and Luis Gonzalez, who are each charged with attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle and two counts of robbery. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Police have said they are also suspects in the two homicides of Sept. 12, although they have not been charged and the investigation is ongoing.

Crime spree

After shooting the motorist in the hand, Castilleja and Gonzalez drove west to the intersection of Lake and Inyo streets, the reports say. They encountered Raul Alonso Morales, 36, walking in the area, and one of them got out of the pickup they were driving.

That person shot Morales once in the head and he died, according to the reports. Witnesses have identified the suspects' vehicle as being at the scene of the shooting but have not positively identified the shooter.

About an hour later, the suspects drove into the parking lot of an Arco am/pm in the 300 block of Union Avenue, the reports say. They encountered a female taxi cab driver and asked her for directions to Deja Vu, a local strip club.

A man later identified as Castilleja then got out of the pickup, walked up to the cab driver and raised his shirt, revealing a handgun. He told the cab driver, "Gimme what you got! Gimme everything you got!"

The cab driver handed over $141 in cash, and Castilleja then got back into the pickup and the suspects drove northbound onto 34th Street and turned east, the filings in court say.

A short while later, Castilleja and Gonzalez came upon a man walking in the 1900 block of Baker Street, according to the reports. The pedestrian told detectives a passenger pulled a handgun on him, and the pedestrian handed over his cell phone, pocket knife and $18 in cash.

The reports say the passenger punched the pedestrian in the head and then got back in the vehicle and the suspects sped away. The pedestrian's phone was later found in the area of McNew Court and Jastro Avenue.

Another homicide was reported about 2:45 a.m. in the 1400 block of Williams Street. Police said Torik Ezell James, 33, died of multiple gunshot wounds.

A vehicle described as being similar to the suspects' vehicle was seen leaving the scene, according to the court filings.

Castilleja and Gonzalez were arrested later that morning in front of Gonzalez's residence in the 1100 block of McNew Court as they were stripping a vehicle, the reports say.

The motorist who was shot in the hand later positively identified Gonzalez as the shooter, the reports say. He told detectives he was "100 percent certain" Gonzalez was the man who opened fire on him.

Detectives made note of Gonzalez's body language when he was brought into the room to face the shooting victim. The reports say Gonzalez immediately began shifting his weight, looking around and at the ground and refused to make eye contact with the victim.

The filings say both Castilleja and Gonzalez are members of the Okie Bakers criminal street gang, and police believe the crimes were carried out in association with and for the benefit of the gang.

Castilleja is being held on $1,280,000 bail, and bail for Gonzalez was set at $960,000. Both are scheduled for a pre-preliminary hearing Sept. 27.

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