Three arrested in birthday party shootings, double homicide in Monterey County

FILE - In this image from KION video, police investigate the scene of a shooting in King City, Calif., March 3, 2024.
In this image from KION video, police investigate the scene of a shooting in King City on March 3. (KION via Associated Press)

Three people were arrested in connection with a mass shooting and a double homicide in Monterey County that left six people dead and seven others injured, authorities announced Friday.

Jonathan Leal Cervantes, 18, Pedro Manuel Nava, 22, and a minor, all from Greenfield, were booked on six counts of suspicion of homicide, seven counts of suspicion of attempted homicide, one count of suspicion of armed robbery, and gang and weapon enhancements, the Monterey County Sheriff's Office announced on Friday.

“This marks a significant step towards accountability and giving some answers for the affected families in our community at large,” Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto said at the Friday news conference.

Cervantes and Nava are scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon; the minor was scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning, authorities said.

On March 3, police responded about 6 p.m. to a report of shots fired at a home in the 200 block of North 2nd Street in King City, where a birthday party was being held. Eleven people were found with gunshot wounds and four people — one woman and three men — later died from their injuries, according to Police Chief James Hunt.

Read more: Mass shooting shook this small California town. Reward is offered to nab trio of gunmen

Authorities identified those killed as King City residents Alicia Ramirez Aparicio, Francisco Aldape Perez and Olivo Perez Pina, all 32, and 42-year-old Mario Guzman Mendoza.

The gunmen, wearing masks and dark-colored clothing, had driven to the home in a stolen silver Kia and opened fire, authorities said. They then fled the scene and left the stolen car in a vineyard outside of Greenfield, where it was found three days later.

The seven injured adults were hospitalized, two in critical condition and the others with non-life-threatening injuries.

Officials have connected the King City mass shooting with another violent incident that occurred about a month prior, in which two cousins were fatally shot just outside of Soledad. The victims — whom authorities identified as Soledad residents Jack Canchola, 20, and Andres Garcia, 26 — had called 9-1-1 around 6:45 p.m. Feb. 4, saying they were being chased by "guys with guns" driving what police later said was a stolen Kia sedan.

Investigators said at a news conference in February that the shooting appeared to be a case of mistaken identity because the victims had no criminal backgrounds or any apparent gang ties. In addition, they described Canchola as a "high functioning" person with autism.

The pair were confronted by the suspects at a location near the Salinas river where they had gone to give Canchola a break from a crowded family gathering, investigators said. The cousins drove off to try to avoid a fight, but the suspects "chased them down and killed them," Monterey County Sheriff's Office Investigations Commander Michael Darlington alleged.

Authorities allege that the suspects, whom they described as gang-affiliated, were tied to an armed robbery in Salinas.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.