What to Know
- According to police, the following timeline of events took place: Around 3:30 p.m. Monday, a group of males in an SUV was spotted at a fight near City College.
- At about 4:15 p.m., the vehicle's occupants were allegedly responsible for the fatal drive-by shooting of the teen in Mount Hope.
- Shortly after 5 p.m., officers located the SUV in North Park and detained four people in connection to the homicide.
Four people ages 17 to 19 were arrested in connection with the deadly shooting of a 14-year-old boy in San Diego’s Mount Hope neighborhood, the San Diego Police Department announced Tuesday.
The homicide was reported shortly after 4:15 p.m. Monday when authorities were notified a teen was shot in a drive-by style shooting on the 3500 block of J Street, less than half a block from the Mount Hope Cemetery.
Upon arrival, medics found the boy laying on the ground in the courtyard of an apartment complex with severe injuries and rushed him to an area hospital after they performed life-saving measures on him. Ultimately, he died at the hospital.
Family identified the 14-year-old as Erick Balanzar, a freshman at King-Chavez High School. Loved ones gathered in the courtyard where he was found Tuesday afternoon to lay flowers and candles, and to pray.
San Diego News
"No matter what he was doing, he would always be there for me," Erick's older sister Perla Balanzar said.
Erick was walking with a group near 36th Street when a gray SUV with multiple people inside approached them, according to police. At least one round was fired at the group from the car, hitting the 14-year-old.
Perla Balanzar said her brother and his friends noticed the SUV and thought it could be following them. Then it started to get closer, and that's when the boys ran, Balanzar said.
"That bullet wasn’t for him. It’s just his luck. Like, it could have happened to any other kids he was with," she said.
Although the vehicle sped away, witnesses were able to report the license plate number to police and officers recognized the SUV was involved in another incident just about an hour before the shooting. San Diego Unified School Police responded to a fight and large crowd at about 3:30 p.m. near City College, where the suspect vehicle was spotted.
Just after 5 p.m., Mid-City police officers located the SUV in North Park. A group of males was around the vehicle and officers detained two individuals while the rest of the group ran away. Eventually, two more people in the group were located at a nearby apartment and also detained.
The following people were arrested in connection to the murder of the 14-year-old:
- A 17-year-old boy whose name will not be released due to his age;
- Bryan Escobedo, 18;
- Omar Morales, 18;
- Ethan Peaslee-Guerrero, 19.
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The adults were booked into County Jail while the minor was taken to Juvenile Hall.
Family members say they and Erick used to live at the complex near where he was shot, and said Erick often visited after school to hang out with friends.
"We want them to pay for what they did cause he was obviously a little kid. They are already grownups. They already know what they were doing and we want justice for this," Perla Balanzar said.
Residents of the complex told NBC 7 they were heartbroken to hear about the deadly shooting.
"It sucks that it happened in this neighborhood," a woman named Sarah said. " It sucks. It sucks. It's unfortunate and I don't know what we can do as a community to mitigate that. Something needs to happen."
Another neighbor echoed her sentiments.
"It's not something that just happens on TV," Greg Perello added. "It's sad."
A motive for the killing has not been determined.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the case is encouraged to contact SDPD’s Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293. Anonymous tips can be made by contacting Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.