Watsonville police have arrested two gunmen who they believe killed an 18-year-old Watsonville farmworker near downtown Watsonville in Santa Cruz County’s first homicide of 2022.
Feliciano Martinez Perea was shot several times around 8:45pm on April 2 on the 100 block of Riverside Drive at a two-story apartment complex. He was taken to an out-of-county trauma center where later he died, WPD spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said.
Pulido said police believe Erick DeHaro and Matthew Madriz, both 18, followed Martinez Perea through the courtyard of the apartment complex and confronted him before a brief fight broke out and the suspected gunmen opened fire. In video surveillance footage released by the WPD, one of the suspected shooters is seen walking toward Martinez Perea, who is walking backward with his hands up. The other suspected shooter, meanwhile, is seen trying to get between Martinez Perea and the first suspect before the video cuts out.
Police arrested DeHaro on the 700 block of Lincoln Street in Watsonville—a handful of blocks from where the shooting occurred. Pulido said DeHaro attempted to run from the police, but “didn’t get too far” before they arrested him.
Madriz was arrested at his home in Morgan Hill.
Pulido said that several law enforcement agencies assisted WPD in the investigation. That included the sheriff’s offices of Santa Cruz County and Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz Police Department, Santa Cruz County’s Anti-Crime Team and Santa Cruz Auto Theft Reduction Enforcement Team, as well as police from San Jose and Campbell.
The Monday morning arrests came hours after more than 200 people rallied in downtown Watsonville calling for an end to gang violence.
In the aftermath of the shooting, people gathered in rows of chairs facing an altar of votive candles, flowers, photographs and memorabilia in the same carport where the homicide occurred. Martinez Perea’s family says he had moved to the U.S. from San Martín Peras, Oaxaca, Mexico—a small town of about 12,000 people far removed from the state capital—a year ago to work in the Pajaro Valley’s strawberry fields. They said Martinez Perea was working in agriculture to send money back to his family in Mexico.
“He was not in a gang; this has nothing to do with him being in a gang,” said a young woman who chose not to reveal her name.
The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information, call Det. Robert Strong at 831-889-8445. Anonymous tips, call 831-768-3544.