Two men who have been jailed since March for allegedly attempting to sell handguns over social media were charged last week with premeditated first-degree murder, accused of ambushing a rival gang member in Kent and fatally shooting him in the head, according to King County prosecutors.
Jose DeSantiago, 27, was drinking and socializing with two friends at a small park near Second Avenue North and West Cloudy Street just before 8 p.m. on March 18 when a gunman got out of a parked car and opened fire from 160 feet away, striking DeSantiago in the head, say criminal charges filed Wednesday against Francisco “Evil” Lopez Cruz Jr. and Andy “Santos” Castaneda Rodriguez.
DeSantiago, a documented member of the South Side Locos gang, died the next day at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, the charges say.
Lopez, 20, of Federal Way, and Castaneda, a Des Moines resident who was 18 at the time of the fatal shooting but has since turned 19, are also both charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and three counts of first-degree assault — two of those counts are for allegedly firing at DeSantiago’s friends and the third is for a shooting eight days earlier of a 15-year-old South Side Locos gang member, also in Kent, according to charging papers.
Lopez and Castaneda are confirmed members of the United Lokotes gang, which has been involved in an ongoing feud with rival south King County gangs since at least spring 2017, when United Lokotes member Arturo Marcial-Alvarez, 19, was gunned down after he stepped off a bus in Federal Way, according to court records and a Seattle Times database of homicides committed in King County.
Two suspects charged with murder in the September 2018 shooting death of Gabriela Reyes Dominguez, who was hit by a stray bullet that pierced the window of a Burien chiropractor’s office, are also United Lokotes members, court records show.
Auburn police arrested Castaneda on March 23 and Lopez on March 26 after a detective reviewed their Snapchat accounts and discovered videos that show them each handling various handguns; Castaneda, who was charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, is accused of offering to sell a black revolver for $250, while Lopez is accused of advertising a .380-caliber handgun for $350, say charging documents filed in those cases.
Lopez, who was charged in 2016 for robbing a convenience store at gunpoint and was suspected of committing 15 other armed robberies, was released from prison in September, court records show. He was under the supervision of the Department of Corrections when he was charged in March with two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the records.
Both men are being held in lieu of $3 million bail on the murder and assault charges but Lopez is being held without bail for violating his DOC community supervision, jail records show.
Lopez and Castaneda both face prison sentences of more than 60 years if they’re convicted as charged, according to charging documents.
According to criminal charges filed last week:
Just before 7 p.m. on March 10, a 15-year-old South Side Locos gang member was a passenger in a car that was stopped at the entrance of a mobile-home park in the 2400 block of South 26oth Street, waiting for traffic to clear so they could turn onto the street.
The vehicle was ambushed by a group of males and police later identified Castaneda and Lopez from video-surveillance footage as two of the assailants: Castaneda opened the car door, pulled the 15-year-old from the backseat and began punching him in the face. Lopez joined in beating the teen and Castaneda fired five rounds from a 9-mm handgun, striking the victim in the left arm and thigh, shattering his elbow.
The teen’s friends got him back in the car and drove him to a hospital as Castaneda and Lopez ran from the scene, the charges say. Police collected five shell casings from the scene.
Eight days later, DeSantiago was gunned down at the park in Kent’s Northpark neighborhood. Six 9-mm shell casings were recovered by police.
Detectives canvassed the neighborhood and obtained video-surveillance footage from private homes that showed a black Audi with distinctive rims had circled the area for 26 minutes and then sped away immediately after the shooting. The driver appeared to be Castaneda, the charges say.
Kent police released a bulletin to area police agencies, asking for help in identifying the Audi, and received word from Auburn police that detectives there were already investigating Lopez and Castaneda for unlawfully possessing firearms — and noted a black Audi had been seen in both suspects’ Snapchat videos.
On March 23, Des Moines police located a black Audi registered to Castaneda parked outside his house. Castaneda was arrested by Auburn police, his car was impounded and his house was searched, the charges say.
Scientists at the State Patrol Crime Lab later determined that 9-mm shell casings found at the two crime scenes were fired by the same gun, and an unspent 9-mm round found in Castaneda’s Audi had been cycled through the same handgun that was used in those shootings, say charging papers.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for DeSantiago’s phone and found a social media image of Lopez posing next to gang graffiti and a text conversation from six days before he was shot, in which DeSantiago discussed plans to cross out the graffiti, which included Lopez and Castaneda’s street names, according to the charges.
In a recorded conversation with a jailed United Lokotes member two days after DeSantiago was shot, Lopez revealed that a South Side Locos member had been shot in the head, though that information hadn’t been released to the media, according to the charges. Lopez also bragged that he was “famous,” and said he was “the oldest homie out here putting in work,” the charges say.