4 suspected gang members accused in Libby Lake Park shooting plead not guilty

VISTA, Calif. - Four suspected gang members accused of opening fire in an Oceanside park in rival gang territory, killing two teenagers and wounding two others, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and attempted murder charges.

Martin Melendrez, 21, Santo Diaz, 19, Michael Zurita, 19, and Kevin Brizuela, 17, were ordered held without bail in connection with the March 13 shootings that took the lives of 13-year-old Melanie Virgen and her close friend, 15-year-old Edgar Sanchez. Two boys, including a 15-year-old, were seriously injured.

All four defendants were charged in adult court with a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait. The three men face a potential death sentence if convicted, Deputy District Attorney Christine Bannon said, while Brizuela would face a maximum term of life in prison without parole.

Bannon said all four defendants – members of the same gang – armed themselves with multiple firearms the night of the shooting and drove together to Libby Lake Park about 9 p.m.

The prosecutor alleged that the defendants approached the victims, who were sitting on a couch near a makeshift memorial from a prior homicide in the park and opened fire, hitting all four victims multiple times.

Police arrested the suspects last Friday.

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