Three arrests have been made seven years after the drive-by-shooting of 17-year-old Alex Fernandez in Mountain View, the FBI and the Santa Clara County Violent Gang Task Force announced today.
Anthony Figueroa, 23, believed to have been the driver, has been charged with homicide. His father, Arthur Figueroa, 49, has been charged with perjury for lying under oath during a grand jury investigation in March.
On Friday, Anthony Figueroa was taken into custody without incident from his Leong Drive home. Arthur Figueroa, a park maintenance worker with the city of Mountain View, was arrested in a city vehicle.
Both are expected to receive gang enhancements, which provide for greater punishments if convicted.
The alleged trigger-man, Giovanni Duarte, 24 and also from Mountain View, was arrested back on March 23 on suspicion of homicide with a gang enhancement. But his arrest "was kept hush, hush," according to Mountain View Police Department spokeswoman Liz Wylie.
"We wanted to make sure that people believed the investigation was done," she said. "We had to keep it under wraps."
Police say that on Sept. 24, 2004, at about 10:30 p.m., Fernandez was walking with with some friends on the 500 block of Mountain View's South Rengstorff Avenue when Duarte, Anthony Figueroa and three others—who have been identified—pulled up in a car.
Fernandez, who had previously admitted affiliation with the Mountain View Sureños gang, approached the car and, according to police, was shot in the chest when Duarte opened fire. Fernandez later was pronounced dead at Stanford Hospital.
Wylie explained that despite the many leads that the Mountain View Police Department developed in the early months of the case and the $10,000 reward offered, they could not identify any of the suspects.
"We never stopped thinking about it, but [the case] stalled," she said.
However, when the gang task force moved into the headquarters of the police department at 1000 Villa St. in January 2010, the then-6-year-old cold case investigation was reopened.
Two FBI special agents, two MVPD detectives and one from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety breathed new life into the homicide case.
"They re-interviewed everyone involved and got new tips and leads," Wylie said. "The story started to unravel into a new picture."
According to Wylie, the added resources and technology of the FBI, which the MVPD didn't have, became another element that helped in the investigation.
That's how they identified Duarte as the gunman and Anthony Figueroa as the driver of the red two-door car; they also learned that both associated with the Norteño gang, Varrio Mountain View, explained Wylie.
In February 2011, the MVPD issued a press release to remind the public that to anyone who provided information leading to the arrest and prosecution of a suspect or suspects in this case.
In March 2011, the District Attorney's Office held a grand jury investigation to help get statements on the record.
After the grand jury investigation, the county task force identified Arthur Figueroa as a potential witness, because the getaway vehicle used by his son, Anthony, was a family vehicle.
"We believed that he had information that he was withholding," Wylie said. "We believed he lied under oath."
On April 2, with a search warrant in hand, the MVPD searched and found weapons in Anthony Figueroa's home. Figueroa, a convicted felon, was charged with felony possession of firearms.
However, Arthur Figueroa was arrested for perjury while inside a city of Mountain View vehicle.
According to Wylie, the three others who had been in the car at the time of the homicide have been identified. Two are in custody for unrelated crimes in other cities. The gang task force is still gathering evidence to make arrests.
"The FBI resources and technology were very valuable to this case," Wylie said, "because this case has been hanging over our heads for years."
Check back later for more in the anatomy of this cold case investigation.