Four arrested in Libby Lake shooting

By Katherine Poythress and Teri Figueroa onMarch 30 in U~T San Diego

OCEANSIDE — Police have made fours arrests in connection with a late-night
shooting earlier this month in Libby Lake Park that left two teenagers dead and
two more injured, Oceanside police said Saturday.

Federal and local authorities served search warrants at five separate locations in
Oceanside and Vista early Friday, based on leads indicating the March 13 slayings
were gang-related.

Those searches led authorities on a follow-up investigation through the evening that
culminated in the arrests of Santo Diaz, 19; Michael Zurita, 19; and Martin Melendrez,
21. They were booked into jail on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder and
two counts of attempted murder each.

All three men also face allegations of participating in a criminal street gang.

The fourth suspect is a juvenile and faces the same charges; his name was not
released because he is a minor. Police said they do not believe there are any
ther suspects in the case.

Melanie Virgen, 13, and Edgar Sanchez, 15, died in the 9 p.m. shooting at Libby
Lake Park. Two boys, both under 18, were wounded.

Police said the shooters reportedly made their getaway in a dark gray or silver Toyota
pickup with an extended cab. A similar Toyota Tacoma registered to one of the suspects
was recovered during the investigation on Friday.

Jon Krause, a relative of Melanie’s and spokesman for both the Virgen and Sanchez
families, said they are grateful to the Police Department and relieved that arrests
were made so quickly.

“We would like to reach out to the families of the boys who committed this horrible
crime and tell them that our love, thoughts and prayers are with you now,” he said
in a statement. “We insist that justice be done but we also understand the rightful
place that mercy has in the judgments of God. We hold no ill will but instead we
offer our support and friendship.”

The four teens were attacked at the hilltop site of a makeshift memorial for another
boy and girl who were shot to death on the same slope on May 3, 2011.

Police made four arrests in that case and have said those slayings were gang-related,
although the victims were not members of a gang. One Oceanside gang member,
Tyrone Blackmon, was sentenced to four years in prison in January after pleading
guilty to being an accessory in the 2011 killings of Fernando Solano, 16, and
Sandra Salgado, 14.

Three others are charged with murder.

The 18-acre park has become the subject of much discussion in a community
rocked by the two violent attacks. Police this month committed to adding more
lights in the area, and a city councilman proposed installing security cameras.

Others have called for a curfew to keep kids out of harm’s way.

On Saturday, the Virgen and Sanchez families challenged the community to
send a message that violence will not be tolerated any longer.

“To the community as a whole we pose this simple question: When is
enough enough?” the family’s statement said. “Take back your neighborhoods.”

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