SANTA ANA – On Friday, February 20, 2009, at 12:24 in the afternoon, police were called to the Main Place Mall on reports of gunshots. Officers found 18-year-old Julio Cesar Zavala suffering from gunshot wounds. Paramedics from the Santa Ana Fire Department were also on the scene, and transported Zavala to the UCI Medical Center in nearby Orange, where he died from his wounds.
Witnesses reported to the investigating officers that Zavala and an unidentified passenger were in a white Cadillac El Dorado, stopped at 100 West Memory Lane. According to the Santa Ana police, a black Jeep Cherokee stopped behind them, and one of three of the men in that car exited, walked up to the Cadillac, and fired several shots into it.
Zavala accelerated his car and crashed through some planters at the Main Place parking lot. The Cadillac caught fire, and Zavala’s passenger ran from the car into the mall. Meanwhile, Zavala also exited the car and collapsed there in the parking lot, where he was found by police.
The three men in the Jeep fled the scene immediately. Detectives determined, however, that this was a gang shooting, and within 12 hours were able to locate and arrest a suspect, 26-year-old Aaron Castaneda, at a local motel. Jason Luna was also arrested, while the third suspect was not found. The three were believed to be members of a Santa Ana tagging gang. Castaneda was tried and sentenced to life in state prison for the murder, while Luna was found guilty of street terrorism, and sentenced to two years.
The third suspect, identified as Christian Medina, initially eluded capture. Detectives learned that he had fled to Mexico, and with help from U.S. Marshalls and working with Mexican authorities, he was arrested in Mexico, and extradited to the United States. Over four years after the killing of Zavala, the Marshalls took custody of Medina on Sunday, May 26, and transported him to the Santa Ana police. Detectives interviewed him, and he was booked for murder, with gang enhancements.
Orange County Register: MainPlace shooting victim called loving, charming