Alfredo Zendejas originally declined to be photographed in the orange uniform because he said people would automatically assume he is guilty. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Alfredo Zendejas originally declined to be photographed in the orange uniform because he said people would automatically assume he is guilty. Photo by Noe Magaña.

Alfredo Zendejas says the Hollister Police Department’s narrative regarding a March 26, 2022 shooting is wrong. Zendejas, who was arrested March 31, 2022, in San Jose, is facing two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and weapons charges.

In exclusive interviews with BenitoLink, Zendejas, who is being held at San Benito County Jail, said he was involved in the shooting that resulted in the death of Hollister residents Jaime Jesus Gomez, 23, and Daniel Eli Gonzalez, 21, but that rather than being the aggressor, it was the other way around. Three other people also received gunshot wounds that day. 

“I was there, but not in the role police say,” Zendejas, 29, said through a black telephone at the jail visitor room. “I was forced to return fire.”

In news releases and a April 1 news conference following Zendejas’ arrest, Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso stated that police had “evidence to suggest” that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity, that it was a “personal vendetta” and that it was not gang-related, though police originally treated it as such.

“I didn’t commit murder, I defended myself,” Zendejas said in a written statement he held up against the glass of a small window to show this reporter. “They shot at me first, barely missed me and then I returned fire,” the statement said.

When recalling the day of the incident, Zendejas, who requested an interview with BenitoLink, said he came to Hollister to spend the night with family members living in Sierra Court. He said when he got to the house, there was no parking available so he drove back to Rustic Street.

He said as he was driving, looking for parking with his windows open because he was vaping, the sound of yelling or an argument caught his attention. He said he saw a group of people outside a home but his attention immediately went to two individuals.

“They were both looking at me but one of them just took off running across the lawn and that’s when it seemed like he was reaching for something,” Zendejas said. “In my mind it just registered like this guy is reaching for a weapon.”

At that point, Zendejas said he reached for his weapon and stopped his car because he thought the individual was positioning himself to get closer to where Zendejas would have to drive by. He said when he turned his attention to the second individual, that person already was pointing a weapon at him.

“He opened fire,” Zendejas said. “He shot what I thought were two rounds. He shot in my general direction and that’s when I raised my firearm and I shot back.” 

He said he then left the area. 

Zendejas said he began to carry weapons when he left the gangs 10 years ago to protect himself because gang members are known to target dropouts. He said he began to affiliate with gangs when he was about 14 because “they were everywhere,” and that he had many friends who were involved. 

According to court records, Zendejas has been convicted of three felonies for property offenses in San Benito County starting in 2012.

He added that though he did not recognize the two individuals or know the shooting victims personally, he was familiar with people that live in the house they were in front of.

“There were gang members there and gang members in general know that I’m a dropout,” Zendejas said. “They know that if they were to see me that they are pretty much obligated to assault me—to even kill me if they could.”

He said he didn’t understand why police have not disclosed that following the shooting, officers found two weapons at the crime scene and that they knew known gang members were among the group.

At the news conference, police said that there were between 10-15 people outside the home at the time of the shooting. 

“How could you go ahead and push that [narrative] when there’s all these facts there?” Zendejas asked. 

Hollister Police Detective Michael Paddy said he could not answer questions sent by BenitoLink “as they may comprise the ongoing investigation we have with this case.”

Zendejas said it was his goal to get the facts out.

“I want people to know the truth,” Zendejas said. “[To] have somewhat of a clear picture and [police] not keep on saying those guys [the group at the crime scene] are innocent. 

He added he understands people will have a strong feeling toward him but said, “People should know everything: who was there, what they found there.” 

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Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts...