Man stabbed to death in Santa Cruz’s first homicide of the year

By Alia Wilson – Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted: 01/04/2009 01:30:47 AM PST

SANTA CRUZ — A 22-year-old Santa Cruz man was stabbed to death Friday night when an argument on a bus led to a fight on the street on Soquel Avenue near Frederick Street, according to police.

A 17-year-old Watsonville boy was arrested in connection with the city’s first homicide of the year, which police say appears to be solely gang-related. Police on Saturday issued a $1 million arrest warrant for Martin Holguin, who they say was also involved in the stabbing.

Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark said Holguin has a history of violent crime and gang involvement and is considered dangerous.

The fatal altercation began at 11 p.m. Friday, when two men and the victim, identified by police as Vincente Christopher Moreno, 22, of Santa Cruz, exchanged gang slurs on a Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District bus. All three got off the bus and the argument escalated into a physical fight. Moreno was stabbed repeatedly in the torso, according to police.

“He was with his girlfriend who was just screaming at the top of her lungs,” said Casey Helseth, who lives in the area and was in his car at a nearby parking lot when the fight broke out.

Helseth said he saw two males chase the victim to the intersection of Soquel and Frederick, and heard the argument escalate. He went to see what was happening when he saw the victim lying in the road, not moving, Helseth said.

“It was nuts. I just stood there and tried to figure out what had happened,” Helseth said. “The paramedics were there within minutes but couldn’t resuscitate him.”

A woman working at a nearby gas station parked her car in front of Moreno to prevent him from getting hit by other cars driving around the incident, according to Helseth. A roadblock was set up on Soquel and Frederick for the paramedics who treated Moreno at the scene.

Moreno was taken to Dominican Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

The two other men fled the scene toward Capitola Road, according to police. Santa Cruz police, Sheriff’s Office deputies and the California Highway Patrol established a perimeter between Morrissey Boulevard and Capitola Road, including the Arana Gulch area.

A Sheriff’s Office sergeant found the 17-year-old near Capitola Road and Soquel Avenue. The boy, who is not being identified by police because he is a minor, had a slash wound on his hand, according to Clark, and he was identified by a witness as being involved in the fight.

Officers unsuccessfully canvblanked the neighborhood for Holguin, according to police. Investigators described him as 19 years old, 5-foot 6-inches tall and 160 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt, khaki d#$kies pants and black and white Converse shoes, police said. Police said anyone who sees Holguin should call 911 immediately.

On Saturday, officers found a pocket knife believed to be the murder weapon in the area of the incident, Clark said. Detectives also got phone calls from residents who located other items of clothing and evidence in response to an automated police message alerting neighbors to the incident and asking them to be on the lookout for evidence, Clark said.

Residents were startled by the violence in what they say is usually a quiet area.

“I was shocked,” said Henry DaSilva, a San Juan Avenue resident for more than 20 years. “This is a safe area. Things like this don’t happen around here.”

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