June 2, 2021 – Santa Barbara County, Ca.
Political leadership in the City of Santa Maria is working hard to avoid the distinction of having their community branded as the most dangerous area on California’s central coast, but by all metrics those efforts are falling a bit short of the reality.
Evidence of that came with a fatal shooting that took place at approximately 2:00 AM on May 28th , becoming the fourth episode of deadly violence in the city this year. Officers who responded to the scene on the U.S. 101 downtown Santa Maria overpass discovered 29-year-old Frankie Placido Hernandez sitting in his car, dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
According to Santa Maria Police Department spokesman Lt. Terry Flaa, investigators determined that Hernandez had been shot while driving through the city’s commercial area in an incident that “does not appear to be gang-related.” The ensuing investigation lead detectives to identify 20-year-old Santa Maria resident Erik Fernandez Rocha as the primary suspect, where upon a warrant for his arrest was issued the following day, May 29th .
It was at that point that SMPD officers and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department deputies began scouring the earth, conducting “an extensive search and surveillance operation” in an effort to locate Rocha. Later that day, detectives spotted Rocha pedaling his bicycle through a Santa Maria neighborhood. He was promptly contacted, taken into custody, and transported to Santa Barbara County Jail, where he was booked on a charge of murder.
Photo: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Booking