Three men were charged Tuesday in connection with a shooting that left a San Bernardino police officer in critical condition and the alleged gunman dead following an early morning protracted gun battle, officials announced.
Jonathan Contreras, 20, Orlando Cruz, 24, and Gonzalo Medina, 22, all residents of San Bernardino, were each charged with two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and one count of possession of an assault weapon, an AK-47, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
If convicted as charged, each man faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison, prosecutors said. The three men were expected to be arraigned Wednesday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
“If you aid and abet or you’re involved in a conspiracy in the assault or shooting of a peace officer, we will hold you accountable, even if you don’t pull the trigger,” District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said Tuesday.
At a news conference where authorities displayed the AK-47 and handgun used in the shootout, along with photographs of those allegedly involved, Ramos called the firearm used a “very evil weapon” when in the “wrong hands.”
“They’re not going to go out target-practicing and shooting cans with an AK-47,” Ramos said. “That’s to kill.”
Officer Gabriel Garcia, 31, remained in a medically induced coma Monday, the San Bernardino Police Department had announced. There had been no substantial change to his condition, Lt. Rich Lawhead said Tuesday.
Garcia was shot once in the head after he and a trainee officer approached a group of people early Friday morning in front of a home on a dead-end street – North Garner Avenue – police said.
As Garcia collapsed, the trainee officer returned fire and, during an extended gun battle, fatally shot the alleged gunman, 38-year-old Alex Alvarado, police said.
Officers from multiple agencies responded to the scene just after 2 a.m., and several others were taken into custody, including Contreras, who was held on suspicion of possession an assault-style rifle and a second firearm that was described as a revolver.
Investigators believe Alvarado fired and that both weapons were used, but they initially had no reason to believe others who were detained fired weapons, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan had said Friday.
Alvarado was still believed to be the lone gunman, but nonetheless, the three men were all charged Tuesday with attempted murder, authorities said Tuesday.
“They were all together in a location, in a vehicle, a and they all had knowledge of these weapons,” Ramos said. “We have no doubt that all these individuals are guilty.”
Two women were also in custody. They have not been identified and it was not clear what they were being held on.
Cruz had been arrested after the shooting in connection with traffic warrants, police said Friday. Medina was not identified until Tuesday’s news conference.
At least four rounds were fired from the handgun and one round was fired from the AK-47, Burguan said Tuesday. The rifle had bullet strikes on it, indicating it may have been disabled by the trainee officer’s gunfire, the chief said.
Gang prosecutors were working the case, Ramos said, but no gang allegations had been filed.
A prayer vigil was held for Garcia Monday evening at the 66ers’ San Manuel Stadium.
Garcia has been with the department for 6 1/2 years and has a young child, police said. His father is Capt. R.C. Garcia, who has been with the San Bernardino Police Department for 23 years, according to his biography on the city’s website.
“This is very, very difficult for the family,” Burguan said.