Alfredo Cortez Zendejas, 28, who was convicted of a felony in a car burglary in 2018, was charged on April 4, 2022 with nine felonies and 17 enhancements related to the March 26 drive-by shooting in Hollister that resulted in the deaths of Daniel Eli Gonzalez, 21, and Jaime Jesus Gomez, 23, and injured three others.
He was charged with two counts of premeditated murders, as well as three counts of attempted murder of Moises Vaca, Henry Alexander Escaname and Ray Gomez, 23. Other felony counts included a convicted violent felon in possession of body armor, possession of a firearm (rifle), and possession of ammunition and reloaded ammunition. He was also charged with a misdemeanor of possession of a high-capacity magazine.
Zendejas appeared in San Benito Superior Court on Jan. 5, and was promptly rescheduled to come back to court Jan. 31 for a preliminary hearing setting.
A felony preliminary hearing determines whether there is enough evidence to allow a trial to take place or not, according to the Office of the United States Attorneys. Normally, preliminary hearings typically take place soon after charges are officially filed against the defendant. For instance, federal law requires that a preliminary hearing be held within 14 to 21 days after the defendant’s initial appearance.
District Attorney Joel Buckingham told BenitoLink that Zendejas faces 100 years to life in prison if he is convicted.
As to the possibility of the death penalty, Buckingham said, “Any decision related to the death penalty or special circumstances is incredibly weighty and needs to be deliberated and evaluated both personally and internally much further.”
Hollister Police announced April 1 they had arrested Zendejas in connection with the March 26 drive-by shooting. Police Chief Carlos Reynoso said he suspects Zendejas may have been targeting someone else when he allegedly opened fire at a group of people on the 300 block of Rustic Street.
Reynoso said Zendejas was a former city resident and a “drop-out” from the Norteños street gang. He also said he believes Zendejas was possibly involved in a personal vendetta when he allegedly mistook one of the victims for his intended target.
The investigation, according to Reynoso, involved Hollister police, San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, the county probation office, and the district attorney’s office, as well as San Jose law enforcement.
Reynoso said neighborhood surveillance cameras captured part of the shooting, but there was not enough information to identify the suspect or the vehicle. He said police used additional video footage before the shooting from downtown to identify the suspected vehicle and Zendejas.
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