Santa Rosa police arrest 7 suspected promoters of July sideshow, others remain at large
Santa Rosa police on Tuesday arrested seven Sonoma County residents suspected of promoting and organizing unsanctioned sideshows in July involving about 300 vehicles.
The arrests were part of an ongoing operation to tackle illegal gatherings known for clogging intersections, disrupting residents and causing injuries. They’re specifically linked to sideshows that took place July 9-10 in Santa Rosa.
“These are the people who organized and promoted the events,” Santa Rosa police Sgt. Chris Mahurin said.
The investigation involved searches of social media but benefited from other parties coming forward and cooperating with investigators, Mahurin said.
In July, police reported sideshow participants attempted to take over five intersections but only managed to organize at one: Guerneville and Willowside roads, just outside city limits.
Participants tried to set up at Sebastopol Road and West Avenue, which had been a hot spot for sideshows previously. Other locations were at Stony Point Road and Bellevue Avenue; Piner and Fulton roads; and Aston Way and Petaluma Hill Road.
Investigators served 14 arrest warrants Tuesday and apprehended the suspects on suspicion of vandalism, conspiracy to commit crimes and waterway pollution, which Mahurin attributed to damaged tires entering water systems.
Police identified the following suspects and their locations of arrest:
- Richard Murillo Robles, 24, at his home on Hillview Court in Rohnert Park.
- Jorge Luis Calderon-Caballero, 19, at his home on Dutton Avenue in Santa Rosa.
- Joel Vasquez Cortez, 18, at his home on Regents Circle in Rohnert Park.
- Jesus Calderon Avalos, 32, at his home on Spence Avenue in Santa Rosa.
- Neri Alberto Orea-Vasquez, 19, at his home on Burton Avenue in Rohnert Park.
- Manuel Andres Garfia, 20, at his home on Commerce Boulevard in Rohnert Park.
- A 17-year-old boy, who surrendered to police after investigators searched his home on Llano Road.
It was not immediately clear if any of the defendants were represented by an attorney. Full booking information wasn't available Tuesday evening except for Garfia, who was in custody in lieu of $15,000 bail, jail records showed.
Murillo Robles is also suspected of possessing an assault rifle and illegal fireworks. Garfia also is accused of having illegal fireworks.
Bianey Valdivia-Hernandez, a 24-year-old Santa Rosa resident, was arrested on unrelated charges of suspicion of child endangerment while investigators searched her home for another sideshow suspect. Police said she had an unsecured gun while living with children.
Authorities still are looking for seven other suspects. They’re identified as:
- George Michael Patino Flores, 20, of Santa Rosa.
- Alexys Aguirre-Serrano, 22, of Santa Rosa.
- Emiliano Bautista Rodriguez, 21, of Santa Rosa.
- Daniel Felix Nunez Serna, 26, of Santa Rosa.
- Roberto Carrillo, 21, of Petaluma.
- Rodrigo Lopez-Tapia, 23, of Santa Rosa.
- Jersain Lezama Meza, 23, of Santa Rosa.
Authorities are trying to determine if the suspects are linked to other sideshows, but the July event appeared to be “the largest one they had a hand in,” Mahurin said.
Local sideshows have been marred by gun violence, assaults, injuries and property damage along with pursuits involving police.
A 22-year-old man was shot in 2022 during a Cinco de Mayo sideshow at Sebastopol Road and West Avenue. Santa Rosa resident Ti’Ari Thompson, 21, was later charged with attempted murder related to the incident.
Sideshows have been reported across California and have forced local and state lawmakers to take action.
In October 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bipartisan bill that defines sideshows as an event involving at least two vehicles that blocks traffic for the purpose of performing stunts, speed contests or reckless driving for an audience.
Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan identified sideshows as a top priority when he took over the department in July. And last October, the Santa Rosa City Council adopted an ordinance criminalizing participation in sideshow or street racing, whether as a driver, passenger, spectator or organizer.
Response became a multiagency endeavor in recent years with Santa Rosa being assisted by law enforcement from across Sonoma County, most recently last weekend during a maximum enforcement period.
Police said about 300 vehicles were staged in a parking lot Friday evening on Santa Rosa Avenue, and drivers revved engines and dispersed in different directions before regathering in different parking lots throughout the city.
Officers monitored the activity and announced the night ended without a sideshow.
You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @colin_atagi
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