PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Santa Monica police Thursday released the names of the four suspects believed responsible for the shooting death of local resident Richard Juarez, who was gunned down in what police called a “brazen attack” Tuesday night at Virginia Avenue Park.
The suspects have been booked for murder, attempted murder and promoting a criminal street gang.
The suspects were identified as Patrick Dwight Birdsong, Jr., 18, of Los Angeles; Norman Lovan Cole, 33, of Los Angeles; Sean Alex Mermer, 29, of Lancaster; and an African-American male juvenile, whose name could not be released by police because of his age.
Birdsong’s bail was set at $1.05 million. No bail was set for the three remaining suspects.
Juarez was shot just before 9 p.m. as he and three friends were leaving an art class at the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center, according to family members.
Two of the suspects approached the group and opened fire, striking Juarez at least once. The three other victims were not hit. Santa Monica Fire Department paramedics responded to the scene but Juarez was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.
A sergeant on patrol in the area heard the shots and saw the two suspects running towards a parked car that contained two other men. The officer gave chase and detained the two in the car. The other two suspects continued on foot and were found a short time later hiding, one underneath a van and the other in the backyard of a vacant home.
Police are still investigating the incident and urge anyone with information to contact the Santa Monica Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division at (310) 458-8451 or the watch commander at (310)458-8427 (24 hours). Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the We-Tip Hotline at (800) 78-CRIME (27463).
Some are questioning whether or not Juarez was shot in retaliation for a fatal shooting earlier that day in Venice in which an African-American male, William Charles McKillian, Jr.,19, was killed while walking in an alley off Westminster Avenue on the Oakwood Neighborhood. Family and friends of Juarez said he was not a gang member but could have been targeted because of his dress.