Santa Cruz police today said five suspects were arrested Saturday in the gang-related, drive-by shooting death last year of a 12-year-old boy associated with the Sureno street gang. Police believe that the male adult and four male juveniles arrested Saturday morning, all members of the Norteno street gang, took part in the murder of Joseph Mendoza, Deputy Chief Steve Clark said. Mendoza was gunned down at the intersection of San Lorenzo Boulevard and Bixby Street in Santa Cruz on Aug. 8, 2012 by a group of suspects in a car who fired several shots at him as he stood on a sidewalk, Clark said.
The fatal shooting was part of a gang-related dispute and Mendoza had been known by police to be immersed in the activities of the Sureno gang despite his young age, Clark said. The suspects arrested included Andrew Carrera, 19, of Watsonville, two 17-year-old boys and two 15-year-old boys, Clark said. All five, who were Watsonville residents at the time of the shooting, were arrested on suspicion of homicide, discharging a firearm from a vehicle and criminal street gang and firearms charges, Clark said.
The 15-year-olds were taken from group homes in Exeter and Placerville, while the 17-year-olds were arrested while in custody at the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall on other charges, Clark said. All four of the juveniles had been on juvenile probation when Mendoza was killed, Clark said. Police expect that a sixth suspect, an adult male who is currently in county jail on unrelated charges, will likely be arrested within the next week, Clark said.
Santa Cruz police detectives have been working closely with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office and the county Probation Department’s Juvenile Division on leads to solve the Mendoza case, Clark said. On the day of his murder, Santa Cruz police contacted Mendoza and offered him membership in the Personally Responsible Individual Development in Ethics, or PRIDE, youth outreach program, but he declined, according to police.