NewsLocal News


Three suspects in shooting death of 14-year-old boy in Mount Hope plead not guilty to murder

Two more teens to be arraigned at later dates
Posted at 8:05 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 02:11:49-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Three of the five suspects accused in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy in the Mount Hope neighborhood appeared in court Thursday afternoon during a virtual hearing.

Bryan Escobedo, 18, Ethan Peaslee-Guerrero, 19, and Omar Morales, 18, and two 17-year-old boys whose names were not released because of their age, were arrested in connection with Monday's deadly shooting of a 14-year-old.

In court Thursday, the three adult suspects, Escobedo, Peaslee-Guerrero, and Morales, pleaded not guilty to murder charges, with gun and gang allegations. If convicted, they face 25 years to life in prison.

The victim, who was shot at least one time, died at a hospital, according to San Diego police.

Officials have not released his name, but family members have identified him as Erick Balanzar Loeza.

Four of the suspects were arrested about an hour after the killing, which happened around 4:15 p.m. near the intersection of 36th and J streets. On Thursday, San Diego Police announced that a fifth suspect was arrested. A Deputy District Attorney on the case tells ABC 10News, the fifth suspect, who is a minor, is alleged to be the shooter.

Speaking at the downtown courthouse Thursday after three suspects were arraigned, the victim's older sister, Perla Balanzar told news crews that her family demanded justice.

"We want them to pay for what they did, he was a little kid, he was only 14, barely starting to enjoy life," she said. "They were already grownups, 18, 19 and 17; they know what they were doing, so we just want justice for what they did to my little brother."

The family does not recognize the suspects and believe the bullet was not intended for Erick Balanzar. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.

No suspected motive for the shooting has been disclosed.

One of the underage defendant's is due for arraignment Friday morning in San Diego juvenile court, while the other is expected to appear on Monday, according to the prosecutor.

According to police, the victim was walking with a group of people on 36th Street near J Street when at least one gunshot was fired from a silver SUV.

"The vehicle sped away but the plate was reported to police," SDPD Lt. Jud Campbell said.

Campbell said the license plate was traced to a Toyota Highlander that was spotted earlier Monday at a fight attended by a large crowd at 1155 C Street.

At around 3:35 p.m., San Diego Unified school police requested SDPD assistance in responding to the incident, at which point, "some of the members of the crowd left in the silver Toyota Highlander," Campbell said.

At 5:07 p.m., the vehicle was located at 4600 Utah St., with Escobedo, Peaslee-Guerrero, Morales and the 17-year-old near the vehicle, according to the lieutenant.

When officers approached, two of the suspects ran and two were detained, Campbell said, with the runners eventually located in a nearby apartment and taken into custody.