3 men arrested in deadly gang-related shooting in Oceano, SLO sheriff says

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has arrested three men in connection with the shooting death of an Oceano man in April.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference Monday that deputies arrested Nathaniel Alexander Jara, 21, of Avila Beach and brothers Gabriel Luis Garay, 21, and Robert Joseph Garay, 28, both of San Luis Obispo for the alleged murder of Daniel Fuentes Sr.

Fuentes, 41, died early April 3 inside the home of a neighbor in the 2200 block of Beach Street, the Sheriff’s Office said in April. He had knocked on the neighbor’s door and told the residents inside that he had been shot, according to the agency.

Over the course of the past four months, detectives identified Jara and Gabriel and Robert Garay as suspects “based on extensive follow-up investigative processes, tips from the public and forensic evidence,” a Sheriff’s Office news release said.

The District Attorney’s Office says that Robert Garay was the gunman who shot Fuentes.

The men were arrested on suspicion of murder on Friday, Parkinson said. They were each already in San Luis Obispo County Jail custody on unrelated charges at the time, he said.

“This is a result of good, old-fashioned investigative work,” Parkinson said Monday. “I am extremely proud of our detectives who worked countless hours on this case which resulted in the arrests of three people.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, detectives are calling the shooting a “gang-related incident.” All three suspects were identified as members of the Oceano 13 gang, the agency said, and Fuentes had “associated” with known gang members.

Parkinson would not say whether Fuentes was an associate of Oceano 13.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said that he plans to file murder charges against Jara and Gabriel and Robert Garay by Monday afternoon.

In addition to charging the trio with first-degree, premeditated murder, Dow said he plans to seek sentencing enhancements for the crimes having allegedly been committed to benefit a criminal street gang, specifically Oceano 13.

According to court records, Jara and Gabriel Garay have criminal histories that include minor drug-related offenses.

Robert Garay has three pending criminal cases unrelated to Fuentes’ death, including petty theft and inflicting corporal injury against a spouse or cohabitant.

All three men were being held Monday at San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail.

Though charges had not yet been filed Monday morning, Dow said Jara and the Garay brothers will be arraigned in Superior Court Tuesday.

The Sheriff’s Office last week issued a public statement on the investigation into Fuentes’ death, saying that after forensic evidence was taken from the alleged crime scene and sent to the California Department of Justice for analysis, the Sheriff’s Office had compiled a “forensic profile” of suspects in the case.

The agency also appealed to the public for information about Fuentes’ death.

Parkinson said Monday that the request did produce some valuable information, but the agency had “focused” on the three men prior to the Aug. 14 release. Parkinson declined to elaborate on the alleged motive.

Calling the case “complicated,” Parkinson said that the investigation was made difficult due to a lack of witnesses willing to come forward.

“We’ve found in the last eight years that getting people to cooperate and getting people to share information is extremely difficult,” he said.

Parkinson added that his office’s gang enforcement unit has “taken a very proactive stance” against local gang activity.

“(It’s) extremely important that we make it very clear and send a very clear message that we will arrest and be very diligent about enforcing gang laws,” he said.

Fuentes’ murder is not considered related to another yet-unsolved homicide in Oceano in January. On Jan. 3, 90-year-old Larry Bross was found dead in his home in the 1400 block of Strand Way, less than two miles from where Fuentes died.

The Sheriff’s Office said Bross’s cause of death was “multiple chop force traumatic injuries.” No arrests have been made in that case.

Not including Jara and the Garays, there are currently six other San Luis Obispo County men facing murder charges in separate ongoing criminal cases.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.