Mount Hope

2 Juvenile Suspects in Drive-By Killing of Mount Hope 14-Year-Old Pleads Not Guilty

A 17-year-old accused of pulling the trigger and killing Erick Balanzar, 14, pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and gang-related charges

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One of two teens arrested and accused, alongside three other adults, in the drive-by killing of a 14-year-old in Mount Hope last week pleaded not guilty in Juvenile Court to murder charges.

The 17-year-old was arrested following the death of Erick Balanzar, who was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting along J Street on Jan. 31, according to the San Diego Police Department.

The 17-year-old who pleaded not guilty Monday is accused of pulling the trigger, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, and also faces gang enhancements. He is not being named because he is a minor, but the DA's office is requesting to try the teen as an adult.

NBC 7's Rory Devine reports outside of the Downtown courthouse.

A second unidentified 17-year-old accused in the killing appeared in court last week, but the DA's Office has not said what charges he faces.

Bryan Escobedo, 18, Omar Morales, 18, and Ethan Peaslee-Guerrero, 19, are also suspects in Balanzar's killing. They all pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Loved ones gathered last Tuesday to mourn Balanzar, who was a freshman at King-Chavez High School.

NBC 7's Rory Devine reports outside of the Downtown courthouse.

"That bullet wasn’t for him. It’s just his luck," the victim's sister, Perla Balanzar, said. "Like, it could have happened to any other kids he was with."

Perla told NBC 7 her brother and his friends noticed an SUV and thought it could be following them. Then it started to get closer, and that's when the boys ran. SDPD confirmed shots were fired at the group from an SUV that was later located in North Park.

Erick Balanzar was walking with friends when three men and one teenager drove by and shot him, reports NBC 7's Dana Griffin.

The three men and one of the 17-year-olds were arrested shortly after the shooting, and the second minor was arrested on Wednesday.

"We want them to pay for what they did because he was obviously a little kid," Perla said. "They are already grownups. They already know what they were doing and we want justice for this."

A motive for the shooting has not been determined. The investigation is ongoing.

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