Witness testimony and surveillance camera video provide sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for two Santa Rosa teenagers accused of killing a man and wounding another in a drunken brawl outside a popular watering hole, a judge ruled Friday.
Jose Campos-Mendoza and Alfonso Ramirez-Mendoza, both 18, can be tried for the Dec. 3 murder of Cristopher "Beto" Medina, 23, Judge Kenneth Gnoss ruled at the end of a more than a week-long preliminary hearing.
Gnoss said it was clear from multiple witness statements and video recordings outside El Puente Cantina that Ramirez-Mendoza handed Campos-Mendoza a gun before Campos-Mendoza raised his arm and fired at Medina and his friend, Julian Loeza, 21.
A video played in court appeared to show Ramirez-Mendoza lifting his shirt and passing something to Campos-Mendoza, who is seen shooting at Medina until he falls to the ground, the judge said.
He then turns the gun on Loeza, hitting him in the arm and hip.
Gnoss rejected defense arguments that the video was unclear or that the shooter was acting in self-defense or in a sudden quarrel.
"The court's not going to go along with that at this point," Gnoss said after hearing from both sides.
Now, the defendants face trial on counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder that could lead to life prison sentences. Although Campos-Mendoza was 17 at the time of the shooting, Gnoss found he could be tried as an adult.
They will return Sept. 4 for the possible setting of a trial date.
The victim's family declined to comment on the ruling outside court.
The preliminary hearing was attended by dozens of people. At least two men were ejected for making threats or intimidating others. Security officials said the tension spilled into the parking lot, where deputies were called to break up a verbal fight.
Witnesses said the killing ended a night of drinking and fighting at the bar, described as being like a "wild west" saloon where people were served whole bottles of tequila.
Around midnight a fight started on an outside patio and continued into the parking lot, where it was captured by cameras from a neighboring Denny's.
In the recordings, Medina and Loeza appeared to be fleeing the fight when they were confronted by two men — one in a red shirt identified as Campos-Mendoza and another in a white shirt identified as Ramirez-Mendoza.
After Ramirez-Mendoza hands something to Campos-Mendoza, he pumps a fist in the air. Prosecutor Craig Brooks said he was "egging" his partner on.
A dozen shots are fired as the victims fall to the ground. Campos-Mendoza then handed off the gun to another man who testified for the prosecution.
Brooks argued the defendants were equally guilty, saying it was "as if Alfonso Ramirez-Mendoza's finger was on the trigger as Jose Campos-Mendoza fired the gun."
Ramirez-Mendoza's lawyer, Mike Li, argued the video was inconclusive. Li argued it was unclear his client gave Campos-Mendoza a gun or that his fist pump was a gesture of encouragement.
The judge responded with skepticism.
"Did you see him reach under his shirt?" he asked Li.
Campos-Mendoza's lawyer, Richard Ingram, argued his client acted in self-defense when Medina tried to attack him. Ingram asked the judge to reduce the charges to manslaughter.