Possible gang link probed in arrest of Nuñez’s son


By Tony Perry
12:36 PM PST, December 3, 2008
Reporting from San Diego — San Diego police are investigating whether Esteban Armando Nuñez, the 19-year-old son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, and three other suspects in the fatal stabbing death of a college student had any ties to gangs.

“There’s a possibility it could be gang-related,” said Police Capt. Jim Collins, the head of the city’s homicide division. Collins discussed the crime at a news conference this morning, but declined to elaborate on any possible gang connections.

Collins said the four suspects attacked five other young men when they confronted them on the street in the early hours of Oct. 4 near San Diego State University. The two groups had been attending separate parties and did not know each other, Collins said.

Luis Santos, 22, died at the scene of stab wounds; three of his four companions were also stabbed. The charges filed in San Diego County Superior Court allege that all four suspects used knives during the attack.

Nuñez was arrested without incident in Sacramento County on Tuesday. All four suspects are being brought to San Diego, where they will be arraigned Thursday. Each faces one count of murder and three of assault with a deadly weapon, according to the district attorney’s office. All have known since early October that they were being investigated.

Collins said the fatal incident involved the four suspects’ confronting the four victims on the street and hurling insults. Two suspects have friends or relatives in San Diego, Collins said.

Within hours of Santos’ death, Collins said, police had information that led them to the four suspects. Detectives served search warrants on their homes in Sacramento. Collins declined to explain the two-month gap between serving the warrants and the arrests.

Collins said Nuñez, a student at Cal State L.A., received no special treatment because of the prominence of his father. “We’ll treat him as any other suspects,” Collins told reporters.

“This is a very difficult and painful experience for every family involved,” Fabian Nuñez said in a statement today. “Maria and I love our children very much. We are confident our son Esteban will be cleared of the charges he is facing. We will continue to fully cooperate with all law enforcement officials and have faith in our system of justice. We ask that the media respect our family’s privacy as the process moves forward.”

Fabian Nuñez served six years in the Assembly, including four as speaker. He is now a partner with Mercury Public Affairs, a public relations firm in Sacramento.

Arrested with Esteban Nuñez were Ryan Jett, 22; Rafael Garcia, 19; and Leshanor Thomas, 19.

Santos was a student at Mesa College.

Police in Elk Grove, a suburban community south of Sacramento, assisted San Diego officers in arresting Thomas. “There was no incident when he was taken into custody,” said Elk Grove Officer Christopher Trim.

The four are also charged with felony vandalism for an incident earlier in the same night of partying, according to the district attorney’s office.

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