The preliminary hearing for the three males charged in the fatal vehicle-to-vehicle shooting last October took place last Monday and Tuesday in Butte County Superior Court.
The hearing ended with Judge Stephen Benson ruling that there was probable cause to hold Alejandro Javier Gonzalez (20), Fredy Caudillo (18), and Ricky Caudillo (17), to answer for the death of Alonzo Robles-Morales, then 18. Benson also found sufficient evidence to sustain an additional count of shooting at an occupied vehicle as well as gang and firearm enhancements. The Caudillos were also held to answer to the additional charge of shooting at an occupied vehicle for their alleged role in a shootout that took place the following day at the 7-Eleven in south Oroville.
On Monday, two males who were in the same vehicle as Robles-Morales during the shooting gave testimony. One of the males, Javier Escalante, 18, claimed he had tried to block out the details of Robles-Morales' death and couldn't recall much of what happened. The other, a 15-year-old who is currently in custody, provided a general timeline of events leading to the shooting near Cedar and Indiana streets.
The juvenile testified that the driver of a black Hummer picked him up, and they later picked up Escalante and Robles-Morales. He said he belonged to a gang in Tracy, but he was not sure about the others. According to testimony, the four went to the Butte County Housing Authority Farm Labor Camp on East Gridley Road, where they smoked marijuana and drank beer before being asked to leave by security.
As the group of teens was heading back to Gridley, Robles-Morales told the driver to turn around because there were members of a rival gang standing outside a residence. They turned around and yelled insults but did not stop because they were concerned a member from the other group was getting a weapon.
The teen testified that they had driven past the residence but stopped a short distance away. The four then got out of the vehicle and threw rocks at the rival gang’s vehicle as it drove past them. A few minutes after Robles-Morales' group had driven off, they encountered the rivals’ vehicle heading toward them. The 15-year-old said he heard a shot when the vehicles passed each other, then noticed Robles-Morales unconscious and coughing up blood in the front passenger seat.
Robles-Morales was taken to the emergency room of Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital, and later transported to Enloe Medical Center in Chico, where he died of the single gunshot wound above his left eye the next day. The black Hummer left in the parking lot of Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital was taken as evidence.
Escalante said he recalled going to the farm labor camp to play basketball, but he could not recollect much of what took place because he was in shock. Escalante stated that he was texting his fiancé when he heard the gunshot, then looked up and saw that Robles-Morales had been struck. He stated that he did not recall his whereabouts.
Page 2 of 3 - The 15-year-old girlfriend of Ricky Caudillo testified she and her boyfriend left the high school around lunchtime to go to the Caudillo residence, then the two went with Fredy Caudillo to pick up her cousin and another female. She said she witnessed Fredy Caudillo remove a gun from his pants and place it under his seat as they were getting into the vehicle.
According to the girl, the group picked up someone named Mickey and took him to a residence, so he could change his clothes. After most of the group was out of the vehicle, she saw a black Hummer pull up with Robles-Morales in the front passenger seat. She recognized Robles-Morales because she had dated him two years prior for about a week. She testified that Robles-Morales shouted a gang name and aimed a gun at the Caudillos, then drove off. The defendants’ also got in their vehicle, while the girls headed for a cornfield.
After later speaking to her boyfriend on the phone, she was picked up and driven to the 7-Eleven in south Oroville, where she learned that Robles-Morales had been shot. Fredy Caudillo reportedly started crying and said he did not mean to kill Robles-Morales.
Deputies stopped the Caudillos’ vehicle the next day in Oroville because it had reportedly been involved in a shootout at the 7-Eleven around 5:30 p.m., on October 2. In the shootout, occupants of a tan Buick allegedly traded gunfire with the occupants from a red, classic car. No one was injured in the shooting, but a pickup at the store and a nearby residence were hit by gunshots. Five 9-mm and six .380-caliber shell casings were discovered at the scene.
During a search of the Buick, deputies found an empty .380-caliber handgun under the driver's seat, a .22-caliber magazine in the console, and a live round in the rear passenger area. Investigators believed that the .22-handgun was used in the Robles-Morales shooting.
Detective Scott Smallwood of the Gridley-Biggs Police Department, who had interviewed Fredy Caudillo after his arrest for the 7-Eleven shooting, testified that the older Caudillo’s account of events did not match up with that of other witnesses. According to Smallwood, Fredy Caudillo said that his group walked toward the black Hummer that had pulled up at the residence. Caudillo told him that he heard a gunshot, then went and picked up his friends.
When Caudillo was confronted about the discrepancies, he changed his account of what happened. Caudillo reportedly told Smallwood that Robles-Morales yelled gang-related insults from a black Hummer as it drove by Gonzalez' residence, then the Caudillos and Gonzalez got into the vehicle belonging to the Caudillos and chased the Hummer. The three reportedly encountered the Hummer while it was pulled over near Locust Street, and Robles-Morales’ group began throwing rocks at the car.
Page 3 of 3 - Fredy Caudillo reportedly drove the vehicle a couple blocks down the street, where they turned around to fight the other group. He reportedly told police that he heard a shot from the rear of his vehicle when the two vehicles passed. Caudillo said he then picked up girls they were with earlier and drove back to Oroville.
A trial date has not been set for Gonzalez and the Caudillos yet, but the three are set to appear for their next court date on June 25.