Oceano gang members had a ‘beef’ with murder victim, testimony suggests

Nathaniel Jara, Gabriel Garay, and Robert Garay

A longstanding beef, in part over a runaway relative, may have been the motive for three Oceano gang members to shoot and kill a 41-year-old man last year, court testimony suggests. [Tribune]

Shortly after 12 p.m. on April 2, 2019, the gang members were driving on the 2200 block of Beach Street in Oceano when they spotted Daniel Fuentes Sr. outside his home. The three gang members allegedly got out of the car and argued with Fuentes. One of the gang members, Robert Garay, then allegedly shot Fuentes as the Oceano man tried to escape.

Following the shooting, Fuentes went to a neighbor’s home, knocked on the door, and said that he had been shot. He then died.

Last August, SLO County sheriff’s detectives arrested Nathaniel Jara, 21, Robert Garay, 29, and his brother Gabriel Garay, 21, for murder. During their investigation, detectives discovered the suspects killed Fuentes under the direction of Oceano 13, a criminal street gang. 

Fuentes had left the gang long ago, and became concerned that gang members were attempting to recruit one of his daughters into the gang, sources said.

Robert Garay, 29, allegedly fired two gunshots that struck Funetes in the back, lodging bullets in his groin and small intestine. Gabriel Garay and Jara allegedly accompanied Robert Garay and assisted in the murder.

Prosecutors charged the three suspects with the premeditated murder of Fuentes. In addition, a special circumstance is alleged that the three defendants were active participants in a criminal street gang and committed the murder to further the activities of the street gang. They each face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder and the enhancement. 

On Monday, a preliminary hearing in the case ended with a judge concluding enough evidence exists for the three defendants to stand trial for the murder.

Daniel Fuentes

During the hearing, Sheriff’s Det. Chad Guiton testified that Robert Garay stated in a Facebook message to a known gang member in Oceano that he may harm Fuentes. 

When asked by the gang member whether they should “smash” Fuentes on sight, Robert Garay responded, “F*ck that fool.”

“On sight. He pulled a knife on my little brother,” Robert Garay wrote in the Facebook message.

Guiton also testified that text messages on Fuentes’ phone showed, about a month before his death, there were concerns among Fuentes and his family members that a female relative who was reported as a runaway was hanging out with the Garay brothers. Fuentes stated in a text message exchange he already had a “beef” with the Garays over an issue with the family member.

“This is a long-ass thing that’s been going on between us and someone’s going to get hurt,” Fuentes wrote in a text, Guiton testified.

A separate text exchange between a relative of Fuentes and a friend of the Garays allegedly revealed it was too late for Fuentes to be left out of the dispute and that the Oceano man “had trouble with his homeboys already.”

In the two days following the shooting, one of the Garays Google searched “Oceano homicide” about 20 times. Likewise, about 30 minutes after the shooting, Jara messaged a friend saying he needed to get out of the Five Cities as soon as possible, online records show. 

Guiton also testified residue particles found on a shirt belonging to Robert Garay, as well as a cigarette butt found at the scene of the shooting, showed strong evidence of a DNA match to Robert Garay.

The three defendants remain in SLO County Jail. While in jail, Robert Garay has been charged with an additional felony for allegedly conspiring with a woman to smuggle a methamphetamine-soaked letter into the facility. 

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