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Two suspects arrested in 2011 Target parking lot homicide

Modified: Friday, Jul 26th, 2013

Mug shots provided by Watsonville Police Department.

WATSONVILLE — Two Watsonville men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of the shooting death of Gustavo Zaragoza Diaz of Prunedale that took place in the Target Store parking lot July 23, 2011.

On Tuesday, two years to the day, Watsonville Police detectives received a call from Deputy U.S. Marshall D. Chavez in San Diego regarding the case, said Sgt. Eric Taylor. Chavez said he was contacted by Policia Estatal Preventiva Agent Jaime Rodriguez regarding the detention of a male subject who was possibly wanted by U.S. law enforcement authorities. PEP is the "State Police" for Baja California, Mexico.

Agent Rodriguez asked for the U.S. Marshall's help in confirming Miguel Angel Rodriguez, 24, was wanted for murder in the United States. PEP had information as to where Miguel Angel Rodriguez was staying in Mexicali, Mexico. Chavez contacted Watsonville Police Investigations and was able to confirm the person in Mexicali was the same person wanted in connection with the 2011 murder of Diaz in the parking lot of 1415 Main St.

PEP agents were able to locate, detain, and deport Miguel Angel Rodriguez to the United States mere hours after the confirmation. PEP Agents transferred custody of the murder suspect to U.S. Marshalls waiting at the Calexico border crossing in Imperial County. Two Watsonville Police detectives responded to the Imperial County Jail in El Centro and were able to confirm the male arrested was, in fact, wanted for the homicide, Taylor said. He has been charged with the murder of Diaz, attempted murder of a woman, and gang enhancements. He will be extradited to Santa Cruz County to face charges.

According to police, Gustavo Diaz, 20, of Prunedale was exiting Target on July 23, 2011, with his 25-year-old girlfriend and his cousin. As the three walked through the lot, the suspects passed by them in a green Honda Accord, then circled the parking lot and met the victims as they reached their car. The suspects stopped in front of them and opened fire with a handgun, then sped away. Witnesses reported hearing between three and six shots. Diaz was struck at least once, and died at the scene. His girlfriend suffered a gunshot wound to the arm but survived the ordeal.

Through investigative resources, additional witness interviews, and processing of evidence, Watsonville Police were able to determine the identity of the second male suspect in the case — Cesar Rosales, 21. Watsonville Police Detectives tracked Rosales to his work place at a restaurant in Rio Del Mar and took him into custody just hours after Chavez's arrest, Taylor said. Rosales will also be charged with the murder of Diaz, attempted murder of a woman, and gang enhancements.

“It’s a good case,” Taylor said. “We got the car, we got the gun, and now we have two suspects.”

Watsonville Police recovered the handgun in Morgan Hill about six months ago following the arrest of a man who witnesses saw shooting a gun near a house.

“We got a tip that that gun was involved in the Diaz homicide,” Taylor said. “The Department of Justice was able to match the gun to the Diaz shooting.

“These arrests are a good example of how local, federal, and even international agencies can work together to produce results,” Taylor said. The Agents of Policia Estatal Preventiva have told us one of their priorities is to pursue, arrest, and deport persons who flee to Baja California in an effort to elude capture. We will be working with them in the future to bring closure to more WPD cases.”

Anyone with information regarding this case is strongly encouraged to call the Watsonville Police Department Crime Tip line at 728-3544 or the Watsonville Police Department Investigation Bureau at 768-3352. Those interested in sending anonymous tips via text message can simply text TIP WATSPD to 888777 and follow the instructions.

Police said Diaz was most likely a member of the Sureño criminal street gang, and that the suspects were likely rival Norteño gang members.

Diaz was a field worker who often traveled to Oxnard, but had a permanent residence in Prunedale. Following the shooting police released video surveillance footage taken from Target’s security system that showed the Honda circling the parking lot just before the shooting occurred.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Watsonville Police Department Investigations Bureau at 768-3352 or the anonymous tip line at 768-3544.

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