Four Santa Rosa gang members, including a 19-year-old accused in a Saturday homicide at an elementary school, were charged Wednesday with the year-old killing of a bass player who toured with singer Lauryn Hill.
Dewey Tucker, 24 of Vallejo, was apparently mistaken for a gang member as he drove Interstate 80 near Crockett to rehearsal for another band. He was struck several times by semi-automatic gunfire and veered into a guardrail west of the Cummings Skyway.
"(He) was not the intended target and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County district attorney. "As Mr. Tucker was leaving his apartment, he was mistakenly identified as being the target and was shot and killed."
Investigators were apparently stymied over the killing of the musician, who had no record.
But over the past few days, Sonoma County prosecutors said they were able to link the four men to the shooting, including Raul Vega, who faces murder and gang-related charges in the stabbing death of Juan Carlos Angel-Esparza, 20, on the campus of Kawana Elementary School Saturday.
He appeared in court along with his co-defendants in the Tucker case. They are Christopher Mancinas, 29, Hector Barragan, 28 and Javier Ivan Carreon-Lopez, 20.
According to court documents, Barragan was informed by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies on Jan. 12, 2010, that they had intercepted a letter containing a threat against him from a rival from Sonoma County.
Barragan met with the other three to plan retaliation and obtain firearms, the complaint says.
Ravitch said all four drove from Santa Rosa to Contra Costa County. The complaint says the four stole a car and then drove to a location of the rival.
They saw a man get into a car, followed him onto the freeway and shot him in the head. The vehicle was actually driven by Tucker, whom they did not know and who was not a gang member.
They abandoned the stolen vehicle and returned to Sonoma County. The murder weapon was given to another county gang associate.
It has been recovered in the county, the complaint said.
Mancinas entered a not guilty plea Wednesday but the others are expected to answer the charges Thursday.
All four are charged in a four-count complaint that includes conspiracy to commit murder, murder, use of a firearm that resulted in death and gang-related charges and enhancements for the shooting. In addition, two separate special circumstances of murdering for the benefit of a criminal street gang and shooting from a vehicle have also been charged against all defendants.
Dozens of friends and family members of the defendants attended the arraignment.
Like the other men, Vega's hands were shackled to a chain around his waist. The young man with a buzz haircut answered "yes" when Judge Ken Gnoss asked if he wanted the services of the public defender.
Mancinas was already in custody on an unrelated matter, Vega was arrested Tuesday and the other two were picked up over the past few days, prosecutor Bob Waner said.
The suspects all face multiple life terms in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of all offenses and enhancements.
The case will be tried in Sonoma County, prosecutors and CHP said.