Monterey County Sheriff’s Office press conference King City
King City Police Chief James Hunt (left), alongside King City Mayor Mike LeBarre (right) and other law enforcement officials, discusses the investigation that led to the arrests of three suspects related to the King City mass shooting on March 3 and the double homicide near Soledad on Feb. 4 during a press conference Friday morning at the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office in Salinas. (Contributed)

KING CITY — Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the King City mass shooting that killed four residents on March 3 and the double homicide near Soledad that resulted in the deaths of two cousins on Feb. 4, announced local law enforcement Friday.

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, along with the King City and Salinas police departments, held a joint press conference May 10 to reveal the arrests related to both crimes as well as an armed robbery that took place in Salinas.

Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto stood present with representatives from the nearly 30 local, regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies that assisted in the ongoing investigation into the tragic incidents.

“I cannot tell you how honored I am of the men and women who have come together and worked countless hours to allow us to make this announcement to you today,” Nieto said. “It is our hope that this announcement can help restore a sense of security to the communities of King City and South Monterey County.”

King City suspect
Jonathan Cervantes
King City suspect
Pedro Nava

The suspects — 18-year-old Jonathan Leal Cervantes, 32-year-old Pedro Manuel Nava and a juvenile, all from Greenfield — have been charged with four counts of murder, four counts of criminal conspiracy to commit murder, seven counts of attempted murder, and weapons and gang enhancement charges related to the mass shooting. In addition, they each face two counts of murder related to the double homicide and additional charges from the armed robbery.

Police did not release the name of the juvenile suspect due to their age.

“As a result of unprecedented teamwork and collaboration amongst multiple law enforcement agencies, we are able to announce the arrest of these three individuals for these evil and senseless acts,” said King City Police Chief James Hunt.

On Feb. 4, at about 6:45 p.m., California Highway Patrol officers and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a 911 call from a subject who was reporting that he was being chased by “suspects with guns.” This led law enforcement to two vehicles located in an agricultural field on Los Coches Road, just outside of Soledad.

There they found two victims suffering from gunshot wounds next to one of the vehicles. Despite lifesaving efforts, both victims — later identified as 20-year-old Jack Canchola and 26-year-old Andres Garcia, who were cousins from Soledad — died at the scene.

The other vehicle, believed to have been driven by the suspects, was reported stolen from a location on the Monterey Peninsula four days prior to the killings. At the time, the Sheriff’s Office stated it believed this was an “incident of mistaken identity.”

“There was nothing to indicate that Canchola or Garcia were involved in any type of criminal or gang activity,” according to the Sheriff’s Office in a Feb. 22 news release.

Then, at around 6 p.m. on March 3, three suspects opened fire in the front yard of a residence on the 200 block of Second Street in King City, where friends and family had gathered for a birthday party.

Seven residents were injured and four were killed in the mass shooting: 32-year-old Alicia Ramirez Aparicio, who was celebrating her birthday; 42-year-old Mario Guzman Mendoza; 32-year-old Francisco Aldape Perez; and 32-year-old Olivo Perez Pina, all from King City.

After shooting at the partygoers, the suspects fled the scene in a vehicle that had been reported stolen from Pacific Grove in late February. Police later found the vehicle in an unincorporated area of South Monterey County.

“We continue to extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims who were injured during the King City mass shooting,” said Nieto at Friday’s press conference. “We pray for your full recovery and that peace can be restored to you and your families.”

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office press conference King City
Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto (middle) announces the arrests of three suspects related to the King City mass shooting on March 3 and the double homicide near Soledad on Feb. 4 at a press conference Friday morning. (Courtesy of MCSO)

Details surrounding the armed robbery in Salinas were not released, but according to Acting Salinas Police Chief John Murray, Salinas Police Detective Pete Gomez’s work on the case “tipped the first domino that led to the cascade of events that brought us here today.”

“His work with physical evidence, witness statements and forensic evidence has been invaluable,” Murray said about Gomez. He added, “Again, our thoughts are with the victims and their families. This process still has a long way to go.”

Additional statements were made by Monterey County District 3 Supervisor Chris Lopez and King City Mayor Mike LeBarre, each of whom thanked all involved for coming together to identify the suspects.

“Our law enforcement community showed up when our community called and responded by doing what they do best — professional, quiet, but steady. That steadiness has led to what we’re experiencing today, which is the first step on the path to justice,” Lopez said. “To the families, thank you for being patient with us. Know that we share your heartbreak, and we know that this does not heal that wound. But we hope it helps start the process of healing because we know in Southern Monterey County, nobody stands alone. We are all one community.”

LeBarre added, “We’re a small rural community, and this incident is something that we weren’t prepared for. I have been amazed to see all these different agencies — from local, state and federal — come together to solve these issues and bring these three individuals to justice. To have them behind bars right now, I truly hope that those who have lost their loved ones, those who were hurt during these incidents, this will bring a little bit of relief to the pain that you’re feeling.”

King City Soledad shooting victims
Photos of the shooting victims, (from left) Jack Canchola, Andres Garcia, Francisco Aldape Perez, Olivo Perez Pina, Mario Guzman Mendoza and Alicia Ramirez Aparicio, are displayed during the press conference Friday. (Courtesy of MCSO)

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the juvenile suspect was scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning in Monterey County Juvenile Court, while Cervantes and Nava were set to be arraigned later that afternoon in Salinas Superior Court.

Monterey County District Attorney’s Office has since taken over the investigation, and no other details are being released at this time.

“Due to the complexity of the investigation and to protect the integrity of the investigation, no further details about the investigation will be provided in order to allow the justice system to take its course,” stated the Sheriff’s Office in a news release Friday.

Previous articleMee Memorial Healthcare System receives Women’s Choice Award as one of America’s best hospitals for emergency timeliness
Next articleSalinas Valley Police Reports | Published May 8, 2024
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here