Thursday, October 18, 2012
It’s hard to imagine a gun battle inside Saltillo, a tiny tortillería tucked in a shopping center on Sanborn and Boronda roads in Salinas. But after two 17-year-olds, with at least one gun between them, approached the cash register on Oct. 4 around dusk, one wound up dead and the other critically wounded.
It’s unclear whether Jose Antonio Ceja, who died of gunshot wounds shortly after the robbery, even fired a shot. A 36-year-old man, who’s been dubbed by police as a “good Samaritan,” was outside Saltillo to give a worker a ride home when he saw the hold-up through the store’s glass-paneled front.
He took a revolver out of his car and used it to shoot both men. Ceja died, and the other, whom police have not publicly identified, is recovering in a Bay Area hospital.
Salinas police and District Attorney investigators are not planning to charge the shooter with a crime. California law allows for “justifiable homicide” in cases of attempted murder, rape and robbery.
Whether or not Ceja fired or ever intended to, prosecutors say the shooter’s action was justified. “Someone could go in with an unloaded firearm, but you can’t expect people to act as if it’s unloaded,” Deputy District Attorney Cristina Johnson says. “It’s not about intent to kill. It’s about the reaction it’s going to provoke.”
Johnson, who’s investigating the robbery as gang-related, is still determining which charges to file against the surviving suspect. If he was armed, and if he threatened the cashier or customers, he could face murder charges related to his accomplice’s death for what’s called a “provocative act.”
The only gun police have recovered so far is the so-called Samaritan’s, which police say he legally owned and transported. Johnson says investigators are withholding his identity to protect him from retaliation.