When the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department took the rather unusual step of publicizing the names and photos of the three at-large suspects accused in the killing of 3-year-old Jorge Azios III two of them juveniles it did so in hope that the suspects would turn themselves in, or that somebody else would do it for them.
It worked. Within two days, the three suspects walked into downtown's Main Jail and surrendered. Detectives believe the "heat" on the streets was a significant factor in their decisions.
"Let's face it the streets talk," said sheriff's spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos, "and there are some crimes that clearly are not popular with or condoned by a criminal element."
Nevertheless, anybody talking wasn't doing it to the cops. After the suspects' names and faces were blasted to the local media, Ramos said, the flow of information directly to the Sheriff's Department was "virtually nonexistent."
Instead, the buzz was online and in other social circles, Ramos said, so full of vitriol that authorities believed the suspects' lives could be in danger.
The case offers some insight into the backward morality of street culture, and the pervasiveness of the "no-snitch" mentality.
There have been similar cases. In October, two unknown assailants gunned down 22-year-old Carrie McCullough on a rough street about two blocks away from where Jorge was shot. McCullough was a young mother struck by stray gunfire while at a friend's barbecue, yet tips have been sparse, and the case remains unsolved.
And in one of Sacramento County's most unsettling homicides, 7-month-old Sean Aquitania Jr. was shot in his car seat as his father, also fatally struck, unknowingly came upon an armed robbery. Arrests were made in that case last fall four years after the horrific crime.
In the case of Jorge, detectives believe the child was struck accidentally in a spray of more than a dozen bullets the night of July 4. However, whether the boy's father, Jorge Azios Jr. who was driving somebody else's car was the target, or whether he was mistaken for somebody else, remains unclear, Ramos said.
"It's possible the vehicle was profiled and this shooting was done based on who the shooter thought was in the vehicle," he said.
Arrested Tuesday were 20-year-old Gabriel Angel Quintero, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. Quintero was booked into the Main Jail on suspicion of murder, and the juveniles were booked into juvenile hall, also on suspicion of murder.
Quintero is scheduled to be arraigned today. The Bee is not identifying the younger suspects because they are minors.
Quintero declined to comment from the Main Jail on Wednesday.
He has one prior criminal case in Sacramento County, according to online Superior Court records. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and evading police in 2010.
Ramos said detectives are investigating the possibility that more than one person fired a gun in the drive-by. However, he declined to discuss the roles each of the suspects is believed to have played that night.
He also said detectives continue to look into the possibility that the shooting was gang-related Quintero is a validated Norteño, according to jail booking records but they are still unsure of the motive.
Sheriff's officials hope anyone with information might feel more comfortable to come forward now that the suspects are in custody. The sheriff's Homicide Bureau can be reached at (916) 874-5057 or Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP.