SANTA CRUZ — A Watsonville metropolis councilman on official letterhead requested for a former neighbor, pupil and Future Farmers of America affiliate charged with homicide — “a reflective and peaceable younger man” — to be launched from Santa Cruz County Jail.
Eli Gutierrez, 26, was charged with homicide with a firearm and possession of an unlawful assault weapon Dec. 5 — 5 months after 32-year-old Dominic Quintana died in a shootout in a failed theft on the defendant’s residence and unlawful pot store on the 100 block of Lawrence Avenue in Watsonville, in keeping with court docket paperwork.
A trove of supporting letters for Gutierrez — an awarded FFA member and Watsonville HIgh Faculty graduate — have been hooked up to a request legal professional Eugene Martinez filed supporting bail discount from $1 million to $25,000. The defendant may afford the requested quantity, Martinez wrote. The prolonged submitting consists of the defendant’s 2011 highschool diploma, veterinary assistant course certification in 2010 and a photograph of him kneeling beside a healthy-looking pig on the Salinas Valley Honest in 2010.
Solely one of many letters got here from an elected official. On Jan. 16, Councilman Lowell Hurst wrote that he knew Gutierrez for the reason that younger man was 15 or 16 years outdated.
“I got here to know Eli properly and really feel assured in saying he poses no bodily hazard to the group and is (in) truth a reflective and peaceable younger man devoid of violent or hostile intent,” Hurst wrote. “It’s (hoped) that he has realized a robust lesson and might return to the neighborhood as a productive law-abiding citizen of our group.”
The letter is just not addressed by the state Political Reform Act, which governs campaign-finance reporting, political advert disclosure, state lobbying reporting and conflicts of curiosity, in keeping with the Honest Political Practices Fee.
In a distant however related state of affairs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in December how that metropolis’s mayor used what gave the impression to be private stationery for a letter asking former Gov. Jerry Brown to launch her imprisoned brother. No ethics violations have been discovered by sources within the Chronicle’s report.
Hurst apologized by electronic mail for not responding to calls Monday whereas touring residence from a household obligation.
Shell casings from a number of weapons littered the grow-op in a scene so massive, California Division of Justice supplied against the law lab to course of the proof, authorities have mentioned. Gutierrez is accused of gunning down Quintana with an AR-15 assault rifle, in keeping with court docket paperwork.
The 2 suspected robbers — Quintana and Louis Ledesma, 50 — have been accused of stealing money and marijuana from the house, from which they fled operating, authorities have mentioned.
Ledesma pointed a gun at pursuing officers, who have been shut sufficient to knock the firearm from his palms earlier than he ran from the house, police have mentioned.
A police canine and Taser stopped the escape lower than 1,000 ft west of the crime scene.
Gutierrez wasn’t the one particular person detained quickly after the capturing. Authorities initially arrested one other man, Elias Gutierrez, who was on the home however didn’t face fees linked with the capturing. Assistant District Legal professional Celia Rowland, when requested in July whether or not homicide fees could be filed, mentioned it was being mentioned however declined to elaborate on a pending investigation.
Within the movement for bail discount, Martinez supplied new particulars within the investigation. 4 individuals have been attacked by two males who entered the storage, the place the defendant’s father operated a dispensary, he wrote.
He additionally listed some details about the weapons: “Mr. Quintana was armed with a .45 caliber handgun and Mr. Ledesma was armed with a loaded 9 mm handgun.”
A retired physician and a Cabrillo School Horticulture Division nursery supervisor wrote letters citing optimistic interactions with Gutierrez. Michelle Simon, a former pediatrician at Salud Para La Gente and CEO of Pacific Coast Pediatric Middle, was the defendant’s physician till she retired in 2018.
“I hope the court docket will take into consideration his historical past and act leniently on this present matter,” Simon wrote.
Gutierrez studied horticulture at Cabrillo School, in keeping with court docket paperwork.
Heather Blume, of the Cabrillo School Horticulture Division, wrote that Gutierrez was employed as a departmental pupil assistant for spring semesters in 2013 and 2016. He earned work expertise faculty credit score for his function with the division, she wrote. Gutierrez labored on an natural farm in that function to enhance his abilities within the backyard, Blume wrote.
Hurst wrote within the official letterhead that he served as an advisor for the Watsonville FFA group by which Gutierrez participated.
“He was a neighbor and a pupil in my agricultural research lessons at Watsonville Excessive Faculty,” Hurst wrote.
Among the many objectives of FFA are good citizenship, honesty and accountability — “Eli possesses these qualities and has all the time demonstrated a peaceable demeanor in my presence,” in keeping with Hurst’s letter.
No official candidate contested Hurst within the November normal election, in keeping with county paperwork.
In his letter, Hurst signed as District three council member and mayor in 1994, 2013 and 2018.
Gutierrez, who had no prison historical past in Santa Cruz County, is scheduled to look earlier than Superior Court docket Decide Stephen Siegel 8:15 a.m. Friday.
The protection has contested judicial assignments on this case and Siegel is the third decide to be assigned.