Witnesses disagree about details of Oceano Dunes shooting, but case will advance

Suspect in Oceano Dunes shooting appears in court

Francisco Orozco of Oakland was in court Monday, August 26, 2019, for his preliminary hearing in the May shooting at an Oceano Dunes concert that injured six people.
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Francisco Orozco of Oakland was in court Monday, August 26, 2019, for his preliminary hearing in the May shooting at an Oceano Dunes concert that injured six people.

A judge ruled Tuesday that charges will stand against an Oakland man accused of firing into a crowd of hundreds of people at an Oceano Dunes concert in May, injuring six.

The ruling means the attempted murder case against 19-year-old Francisco Orozco will move toward trial despite Judge Jacquelyn Duffy acknowledging wide discrepancies in what witnesses told investigators in the frantic hours following the shooting.

Orozco has pleaded not guilty to a count of attempted murder for the one allegedly targeted victim as well as five counts of assault with a semiautomatic handgun for other gunshot victims.

He was in court Tuesday to conclude a preliminary hearing that began the day before, when Deputy District Attorney Danielle Baker called Sheriff’s Office and State Parks officials who were at the scene on May 5 as well as investigators who followed up.

One deputy said the alleged target of the shooting — who has been granted confidentiality and is only being referred to in court as Victim 1 — told him he saw Orozco firing a black handgun directly at him from outside the door of a trailer about 10 yards away from him.

Victim 1 stated he took cover with a family member underneath a Razor off-road vehicle, but could see Orozco repeatedly firing directly at him, Deputy James Silverstein testified.

But that alleged victim — who is also from Oakland and allegedly had two past confrontations with Orozco — was the only of dozens of witnesses interviewed to identify Orozco as the shooter. Other witnesses gave vastly different descriptions of the shooter, including at least one who said the shooter was female.

A loaded Baretta handgun found by a deputy in the sand in an area where Orozco was seen walking after the shooting didn’t match two spent cartridges discovered near a trailer north of the stage area.

However, investigators found a FM 5.7 handgun matching the shells during a search of a friend of Orozco’s home in Oakland, which matched a gun case found in the truck of another of Orozco’s group. There was allegedly sand inside the gun.

‘Playing chicken’

On Tuesday, defense attorney Guy Galambos called to the stand District Attorney’s Office Investigator Michael Hoier, who said he interviewed Victim 1 in Oakland about two weeks after the shooting.

The man told Hoier that a fight broke out near the stage before shots rang out, and that he ran toward the gunfire. “We were playing chicken,” Hoier said the man told him. Victim 1 stated that he saw a gunshot victim as he ran toward his sister’s trailer.

However, Victim 1 also told Hoier “he wasn’t certain the bullets were meant for him,” and that two different sounding gunshots led him to believe there were at least two shooters.

Hoier also said that Victim 1 said Orozco — whom he knew only as Gordo — pulled a gun on a family member at a house party in Oakland in November, but acknowledged that he only heard about it secondhand.

Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Geremia testified that he was called to respond to the concert just before midnight May 5, but his Sheriff’s Office truck had a mechanical issue and a subsequent ambulance that picked him up got stuck in the sand.

When he arrived about 15 minutes later, he was approached by several people who said their friends were shot. One such man, who was shot four times in the abdomen and shoulder, was standing up and lucid, and refused an ambulance, saying he couldn’t afford it, Geremia said. He was driven by a friend instead.

Geremia said he spoke to several people in the crowd, many of whom were shouting shooter descriptions at him, including of a shirtless Hispanic man in gray shirt, someone with a Gucci bag, and that of a woman who was supposedly seen taking a handgun out of the waistband of someone involved in a fight by the stage.

The deputy said he ultimately detained a group of four men associated with Orozco’s camp, including one who had gray sweatshorts poking out from under a rip in his jeans and blood on his shirt he couldn’t explain.

The men’s hands were tested for gun residue, but for reasons that aren’t clear, attorneys for either side have not asked witnesses for results of those or any test on Orozco.

Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Norris later testified that because there was no evidence to hold them on, the four men were released.

‘There are certainly discrepancies’

In his closing statement, Galambos argued that the scene was “chaotic” with people and witnesses who were drinking all night making statements despite it being “pitch black” at the park. He also said there was a lack of physical evidence tying Orozco to the shooting.

“I think it makes it difficult to say for certain anything definitive in this case,” he said. “I don’t see how the People are going to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt (in trial).”

Galambos questioned the reliability of Victim 1, pointing out that the man claimed to run toward the gunfire and pass a gunshot victim before he was close enough to see Orozco, even though he had previously said he saw Orozco pull the gun from his waistband before he started shooting.

In what had not been said in open court to that point, Galambos revealed that Victim 1 initially identified someone else as the shooter to Deputy Silverstein before identifying Orozco. That identification was not recorded in Silverstein’s report.

“The only witness (to identify Orozco) initially identified someone else as the shooter,” Galambos said. “It was something law enforcement did not want to put in that report.”

Galambos has previously told The Tribune that Orozco is a union roofer with a previously clean criminal record, and not a gang member.

In her rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Baker said that Victim 1 identified Orozco as the shooter to two different investigators, and blamed the lack of corroboration by other witnesses on the mass exodus after the shooting.

Pushing back against Galambos’ argument that no physical evidence ties Orozco to the shooting, Baker said: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

In making her ruling, Duffy said the defense raised valid questions about witnesses in the case, but the “totality of circumstances” established probable cause to move each charge forward.

“I recognize that there are certainly discrepancies (in witness statements),” Duffy said, “but (Victim 1) specifically identified Mr. Orozco as the one who leveled the gun at him and fired repeatedly.”

She also noted the FM 5.7 handgun found at Orozco’s friend’s house in Oakland, and a corresponding gun case found in another friend’s truck.

Following the ruling, Galambos asked Duffy to reduce his client’s bail to $100,000, which Baker opposed. Duffy reduced Orozco’s bail to $500,000.

He is due back in court Sept. 11.

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