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Sonoma County pair held in Butte County robbery death

Two Sonoma County men whose suspected co-conspirator was fatally shot in a botched home invasion robbery near Oroville last month are facing murder charges in the Santa Rosa man's death, law enforcement authorities said.

Former Santa Rosa resident Hector Gabriel, 24, was shot by an occupant of the Palermo home where the Nov. 26 robbery attempt occurred in what a Butte County sheriff's detective said appeared to be self-defense.

Two of his suspected accomplices, Santa Rosa resident Salvador Mendoza Jr., 38, and Yonatan Tesfazghi, 19, of Sebastopol now face murder charges on the theory their criminal conduct resulted in Gabriel's death, authorities said

Two additional suspects from the Santa Rosa area are being sought, a Butte County sheriff's sergeant said.

It remained unclear how the suspects ended up in the Oroville area, where authorities said they knew there was a large stash of processed marijuana they planned to steal.

Butte County sheriff's Detective Ryan Gsell said investigators had discovered a connection between at least one of the robbery suspects and those at the house but were not releasing it to the public.

He said evidence indicated they were armed with guns when they forced their way into the house around 2 p.m. and confronted several people inside.

An exchange of gunfire ensued, with at least two people firing weapons, including Gabriel and the man who shot him, sheriff's Sgt. Jason Hail said.

Gabriel was alive when emergency medical personnel arrived but was taken to an area hospital where he later died.

Butte County investigators began working with local police on the case after determining Gabriel lived in Santa Rosa.

A silver Mercedes SUV seen leaving the house at the time of the shooting also was tied to the Santa Rosa area, though the owner is not among the suspects, Hail said.

Sonoma County law enforcement officers ultimately assisted with the arrests on Tuesday of Tesfazghi and Mendoza.

They were jailed overnight in Sonoma County on $1 million bail and released to Butte County authorities on Wednesday, jail personnel said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.)

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