Black-uniformed sheriff's deputies stood three strong outside the courtroom door. Another one was posted just inside it, and three or four more watched from around the judge's bench.
It was arraignment time for three suspects charged with the gunshot murder of a 3-year-old boy, and the extra security was on hand to make sure emotions did not disrupt the proceedings, to keep family and friends of little Jorge Azios III separated from supporters of the defendants.
It turned out the deputies had nothing to separate. That's because only one person showed up on behalf of one of the accused, and she left early. A spokesman for the slain boy's family, Beto Davalos, suggested there was a good reason for the small show of support for the three defendants.
"I saw them looking for someone to be in their corner," Davalos said. "And as you saw, there was nobody there for them. There's nobody to condone actions like that."
A criminal complaint filed Thursday named two juveniles as the gunmen in the fatal, 11 p.m. July 4 shooting at the intersection of Loucreta and Palmer House drives in unincorporated south Sacramento, a few blocks south of Florin Road and west of Power Inn Road.
Eric Minjares, 17, and Marcus Weber, 16, confirmed their names when asked by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Tami R. Bogert. They were arraigned individually and then shuffled out of the courtroom. Both have been charged as adults.
Gabriel Angel Quintero, 20, also stood silently while the judge read the charges that were the same for him as for the other two one count of murder in the shooting death of the boy, another count of attempting to kill Jorge's father, Jorge Azios Jr., 22, and a third count of shooting into an inhabited vehicle.
Local defense attorney Donald Masuda appeared on behalf of Weber. He said he has been privately retained. William White accepted the cases for Quintero and Minjares on behalf of a group of publicly funded defenders from the private sector.
Masuda declined to comment and White could not be reached after the arraignment. Deputy District Attorney Sean Laird also declined to be interviewed.
Bogert scheduled Aug. 2 as the next court appearance for the three.
Sheriff's spokesman Jason Ramos said the gunmen fired more than a dozen rounds in the shooting that took the life of the 3-year-old boy. Investigators, however, have not disclosed a motive for the shooting or other details about what exactly happened when Jorge Azios III was slain.
Davalos, the spokesman for the boy's family, described the 3-year-old victim as "real energetic, an active boy who loved his family."
"He was such a bright, charismatic young man," Davalos said. "The world is at a loss for him not being here."
The boy's mother, two supporters of hers, and Davalos, who identified himself as a cousin of the boy, sat in the front row to get a close-up look at the three defendants.
"It was very emotional, as you can understand," Davalos said. "What we lost and what's locked up in that cage right now, it doesn't equal out at all."
Davalos said, "This is the first step of justice for Jorge. We're going to ride it out."
The boy's father was not in attendance in the courtroom Thursday. Davalos declined to answer questions about where Azios Jr. was heading at 11 p.m. on July 4, and he also did not say whether his family knew Quintero, Minjares or Weber.
He promised, though, that the family will be represented at every hearing for the duration of the case.
"We'll probably be the only ones there," Davalos said. "Like I say, I don't think anybody condones cowardice."