Sheriff's investigators say a man randomly stabbed while walking home alone in Fallbrook in January was a hate crime, and three men now behind bars attacked him because of the color of his skin.
Hugh Pettigrew, 33, died on Feb. 9 after succumbing to stabbing wounds suffered on Jan. 22, San Diego County Sheriff's investigators said.
Kevin Garcia, Tyler Dean and Ryan Valdez were charged with murder, criminal gang acitivity and hate crime Monday, San Diego Sheriff's deputies (SDSO) announced Monday. Garcia and Dean were in custody on unrelated charges and were rebooked. Valdez was arrested and booked into the Vista Detention Facility.
“You had three individuals that are known documented gang members that are out on the street late at night they see this individual walking down the street late at night again, based on part of their motive, would have been the race of Mr. Pettigrew and decided to attack him," said SDSO Lt. Kenneth Nelson.
The arrests come after months of uncertainty for family members and friends, who pleaded for answer's in their loved one's death.
Sheriff's investigators say the 33-year-old man was walking home along the 400 block of Ammunition Road in Fallbrook on Jan. 22 when he was stabbed multiple times. Investigators say the wounded man was able to stumble to his nearby home where he collapsed.
SDSO detectives were investigating the death for months. Part of that investigation, they said, was surveillance video from nearby businesses that shows three men--believed to be in their late teens or early twenties--wanted in connection with Pettigrew's murder.
Nelson said he believes the three people seen on the surveillance tape are, in fact, the people they arrested. He said there was a myriad of evidence, including witness statements and forensic evidence, and it took a while to put all the pieces together.
In the surveillance video, the men are seen exiting a red, 1997 Honda Civic, driven by a woman who parked in an Albertson's parking lot.
Homicide detectives say the trio of men headed to the side of the grocery store toward the area where Pettigrew was stabbed around 10:45 p.m. Pettigrew died from his injuries nearly three weeks after the attack.
Family members and friends previously told NBC 7 the death was a tragedy, but they were thankful they knew him.
“He got me through a lot of stuff in life,” Sherry Weevie said of her friend through her tears. "Weevie still remembers the dance moves Pettigrew taught her to do whenever she was feeling bad.
“He looked out for everybody and made sure everybody was okay,” friend Sonya Menard recalled. “That's why it kind of hurt, I felt like nobody was there for him in his time of need."