Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the violent gang-related killing of Jesse Emmanuel Silos, the 30-year-old man who was gunned down last week in front of a home on the 7300 block of Chestnut Street in Gilroy.
Jose Morales Cortez, 21, and a 17-year-old juvenile, whose identity is being withheld by police, have been arrested for homicide and attempted homicide according to a press release from Sgt. Pedro Espinoza with the Gilroy Police Department. Cortes and the juvenile suspect are from Gilroy.
A third suspect, 21-year-old Juan Guerra of Gilroy, is still outstanding. Police describe Guerra as 5 feet tall, 140 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes. Espinoza says Guerra "should be considered armed and dangerous."
The three suspects are allegedly connected with Wednesday's double shooting, which was "motivated by gang affiliation," police say, and cost Silos his life. Police say the two victims were shot multiple times.
After his recent release from prison, Silos decided to move away from Gilroy to stay out of gang-related trouble according to his cousin, Rebeca Armendariz.
Last week, Silos – who was living in the city of Firebaugh in Fresno county – thought it would be safe to return to his hometown to visit his terminally ill uncle Domingo Armendariz, who is Rebeca’s father.
“He wasn’t under any threat,” insists Armendariz, a longtime Gilroy resident, community activist and union organizer who ran for a seat on City Council in November 2012 but lost. “He was making positive changes in his life. He didn’t want to go back to jail.”
The double shooting occurred at around 9 p.m. Wednesday. Silo’s friend, a 37-year-old victim from Gilroy whose identity has not been released, suffered serious injuries and was transported via helicopter to a Bay Area trauma center, where he is expected to recover from his injuries.
The incident, Gilroy’s first homicide this year, devastated Silo’s family and traumatized the Chestnut neighborhood described by residents as safe and family-friendly. The area is sandwiched between Eliot Elementary School and Forest Street Park.
Gilroy has been home to the Armendariz family for generations. Silos and his children were very much a part of the close-knit group, said Armendariz. She said Silos’ other passion was tattooing.
“He really loved art,” Armendariz said. “Young people can learn from this tragedy.”
According to a 2008 press release from the Gilroy Police Department, Silos was arrested at the age of 25 near 611 Fairview Drive in Gilroy for carjacking, possession of a controlled substance for sale, resisting arrest and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Silos was wanted for two previous incidents related to domestic violence and the brandishing of a firearm.
At the time of his Aug. 13, 2008 arrest, Silos was the passenger of a vehicle and fled on foot when officers attempted to stop him. Silos then forced his way into another vehicle being driven by a mother with her three children, all under the age of 9. Silos hid inside the car and ordered the mother to drive. When GPD officers caught sight of the mother, who "looked distressed," according to the press release, they stopped the car and found Silos, who was armed and attempting to hide illegal narcotics. Officers arrested Silos after a short struggle.
Armendariz last saw her cousin last Tuesday. She recalled that he was his usual self, offering advice to younger members of the family.
“He didn’t hide his past,” said Armendariz. “He spoke to his cousins about staying out of trouble.”
Gilroy resident Irma Sereno, 55, who lives close to the scene of the shooting, said she raced outside late Wednesday evening after hearing “about six” shots.
Within seconds Sereno said she saw two men laying on the doorstep of a neighbor's home, three houses away from her own.
“I asked people to go get blankets,” she recalled.
As Sereno kneeled next to one of the victims, she held his hand and tried to comfort him.
“I kept saying ‘look at me, you’re going to make it,” she recalled.
Other visibly shaken neighbors stood on their porches Thursday morning, the horror of Wednesday night still sinking in.
“I’ve lived here a long, long time,” said a neighbor who declined to be identified. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s pretty terrifying.”
The neighbor said she had talked and prayed late into the night with a direct witness to the crime.
“Is this a new battleground?” the neighbor wondered of the area.
In the course of the investigation, GPD officers canvassed local businesses trying to build up a timeline of Silos' movements and sequence of events.
Ismael Madrigal, store director of Arteaga’s Super Save on 10th Street said police officers called him at home in the middle of the night. Earlier that evening, Silos and the second victim had stopped at Arteaga’s to buy milk shortly before the shooting, according to Sereno.
“(The police) left two voicemails and told me they would be coming to review our cameras,” Madrigal said. “I called the night manager and he said he had seen nothing outside the normal in the store.”
Madrigal said he has not looked at the surveillance tape.
Back on the 7300 block of Chestnut Street, another resident, who declined to be named, heard a description of the alleged shooter from witnesses just moments after the attack.
“They said he was Mexican, bald and wearing a white tank top,” said the resident.
The case is actively being investigated by Gilroy Police Detective Michael Bolton and the GPD Anti-Crime Team.
The last homicide in the city took place at 9:33 p.m. Dec. 31, 2012 when Elpidio Morales Jr., 51, was gunned down near the intersection of Old Gilroy and Alexander streets. Officers are still investigating that case as well.
In what Gilroy Police Sgt. Joseph Deras described as an “unrelated incident,” officers were dispatched at 8:38 p.m. Wednesday to reports of possible shots fired near Luigi Aprea Elementary School on Calle Del Rey.
One resident who called 911 told the Dispatch Thursday that she heard a total of three shots come from Del Rey Park, located adjacent to the school, and saw “two men walking toward Mantelli Drive.”
According to Sgt. Deras, “GPD didn’t find anything and didn’t contact anybody.”
Police are seeking assistance from the public in locating Guerra. Anyone with information related to this incident is urged to contact Bolton at (408) 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous may call We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463 (1-800-78-CRIME).
Blair Franklin is the city and online editor for the Gilroy Dispatch and Morgan Hill Times. Reach her at 408-847-7037.