Santa Maria man arrested in the alleged drive-by shooting of Oceano teen

Santa Maria man is picked up in Nipomo on charges he shot Gabriel Salgado, 17, in November  May 18, 2012 

Exactly six months after 17-year-old Gabriel Salgado was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Oceano, investigators with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office arrested 21-year-old Armando Yepez of Santa Maria in connection with the killing.

Yepez was arrested at 4 p.m. Thursday in Nipomo during a felony traffic stop on Highway 101, one mile south of Tefft Street. He was arrested on suspicion of homicide, commission of a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang and participation in a criminal street gang.

He is in County Jail in lieu of posting $1 million bail. Additional charges could be filed against Yepez, authorities said.

He is the only suspect in the shooting, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Friday. Several search warrants were executed in the South County on Thursday as part of the investigation.

At an emotional news conference, members of Salgado’s extended family tearfully thanked investigators for their work on the case. Salgado’s great-aunt, Terry Lopez of Grover Beach, said the arrest brings a great deal of closure to the family.

Family members described Salgado as a smart, funny teen who wanted to become an artist.

“He was the life of the party,” Lopez said. “It’s been really hard on the family, especially on Mother’s Day, which just passed.”

Parkinson said Yepez was immediately identified as a suspect in the crime, which took place Nov. 17 in the 1700 block of 21st Street in Oceano, but it took six months for investigators to gather the evidence needed for an arrest. Yepez is originally from Southern California.

Salgado was not associated with a street gang and was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when the shooting occurred, Parkinson said. A 14-year-old boy was also shot in the leg during the assault, but has recovered from his wounds.

The investigation that led to the arrest was exhaustive and involved 3,019 hours of work by a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies. Gang-related cases can be particularly hard to solve because witnesses are often reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement, Parkinson said.

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