Spring Valley

Community Remembers Victim In Spring Valley Swap Meet Homicide

Investigators say they are still looking into the motives behind the Spring Valley homicide

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The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the two people involved in an altercation that happened Thursday morning in the overflow parking lot of the Spring Valley Swap Meet, resulting in the death of one man.

The sheriff’s office announced 61-year-old Richard Johnson died Thursday following an altercation with 31-year-old Mauricio Juarez. While investigators are still trying to understand what led to Johnson’s death, the community is left on edge and missing a friend.

NBC 7's Dave Summers spoke to a Sheriff's Department investigator about what led to the fight.

On Friday morning, two prayer candles were placed in front of the gate to overflow parking at the Spring Valley Swap Meet. Investigators said it’s where they were called to Thursday morning near the 8600 block of Jamacha Boulevard. When they arrived, they found Johnson with head trauma, investigators said. He would, later on, die from his injuries. Deputies detained 31-year-old Mauricio Juarez as a person of interest and later booked him into San Diego Central Jail.

On Thursday, a man named Hector Juarez came looking for his son. He said the 31-year-old is homeless and suffers from mental illness. At the time, sheriff’s investigators interviewed Hector Juarez but did not identify by name the man they had arrested. On Friday, NBC 7 reached out to investigators to confirm if Hector was Mauricio’s father, but did not receive a response addressing the question.

“Witnesses were able to identify a subject involved in the altercation with the victim. We were able to locate him,” Lieutenant Chris Steffen said Thursday.

More than 24 hours later, people living in a homeless encampment and others who work in businesses nearby told NBC 7 they had seen Hector Juarez around the community, but only recently.

On Friday afternoon, investigators told NBC 7 they heard Johnson was the property manager at the Spring Valley Swap Meet. NBC 7 reached out to the swap meet for further confirmation and was told, “No comment.”

Mauricio Juarez, 31, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Now friends of Johnson are remembering a friend and condemning the violence that took his life.

”This kind of stuff needs to stop,” Steven Watkins, a Spring Valley local, said.

“You know, it’s horrible. Take a great guy, you know, for what? I don’t know what it was about or anything," Watkins said.

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