Salinas police ID gang members in officer-involved shooting

December 14, 2010

The gunman who police say engaged two gang task force officers in the fierce gun battle Saturday evening was once charged with murder and attempted murder over a decade ago.

But the charges filed on February 1998 against Nicholas Ruelas Martinez were dismissed two months later, according to the Monterey County court’s computer records.

Martinez, now 32, is one of two men police identified Monday to have fired at officers in a shooting at about 4:15 p.m. Saturday near the corner of East Laurel Drive and North Sanborn Road.

Martinez was injured in the shooting and as of Monday remained in critical condition at a Bay Area hospital. He is guarded by an officer, said police spokesman Officer Lalo Villegas.

Police also arrested on Saturday 37-year-old Juan Anthony Ortiz who was booked into county jail on suspicion of two counts of attempted murder and related gang crimes.

Both men are known gang members with an “extensive [criminal] history,” Villegas said.

According to the court’s computer records, Martinez pleaded guilty and served four years in prison for assault with a firearm in August 1999. Ortiz was convicted in 1998 for selling controlled substances and pleaded guilty for being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2001. Both are on parole.

Details on the cases and why the murder and attempted murder charges against Martinez were dismissed, however, were not available Monday. The court documents — which are over a decade old — detailing the cases are in storage and won’t be available until later this week.

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