Prosecutors seek to try 17-year-old Santa Rosa shooting suspect as adult

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The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office is seeking to prosecute as an adult a Rohnert Park teen suspected of being the gunman in a reported gang- related shooting last week that wounded four people, including an 11-year-old boy, at a busy Santa Rosa park.

Deputy District Attorney Tania Partida announced that the office would attempt to try Edward Beltran, 17, as an adult during his Tuesday arraignment at Sonoma County’s Juvenile Justice Center on nine felony charges including four counts of attempted murder that each carry life sentences.

Judge Kenneth Gnoss read the lengthy criminal petition outlining the charges against Beltran, who sat at the defense table with a faint mustache, wearing a juvenile hall uniform of a white sweatshirt and dark pants.

The judge began with the attempted murder of a 21-year-old man police said was shot after arguing with Beltran, who had jumped out of an SUV at the edge of Jacobs Park off West Ninth Street.

“You could spend the rest of your life in prison if you are found guilty of this charge,” Gnoss said.

Moments before the shooting, Beltran or someone with him in the SUV yelled out the window at the man, demanding to know if he “gang banged,” according to police.

The man said no, and they argued, officials said. Beltran got out of the SUV, argued with the man and opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun, police said.

The spray of bullets also struck three bystanders including a youth soccer coach, a 20-year-old man who had just arrived to play a game and an 11-year-old soccer player, officials said.

All are expected to survive.

The Tuesday morning hearing in juvenile court was open to the public.

California law protects the identity of many juvenile criminal suspects but includes exceptions to allow public access to information and court proceedings involving serious or violent felony crimes, such as murder, arson, robbery, assault and weapons charges.

Prosecutors must initially charge minors in juvenile court but, in the case of certain serious crimes outlined in California law, can ask a judge to determine whether the defendant can be tried as an adult or must remain in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is geared toward rehabilitation and limits incarceration until age 25.

A juvenile charged as an adult could face much steeper punishment.

Prosecutors last petitioned to transfer juvenile cases to adult court in 2017 when they did so for four individuals, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Details about those cases weren’t available Tuesday.

Beltran was arrested June 7 in Mendocino County alongside his brother, Michael Beltran, 23, of Santa Rosa and another man, 19-year-old Lukas Cortina of Santa Rosa.

Michael Beltran and Cortina were charged Monday with felony accessory to attempted murder for their suspected roles in helping the younger Beltran escape.

In court Tuesday, Beltran sat next to public defender Christina Hess as he listened to Gnoss read the criminal charges against him and the punishments — including multiple lifetime prison sentences if Beltran is convicted for the attacks upon each victim.

The charges also include special allegations and enhancements prosecutors are bringing against him as a result of the suspicion that the shooting was motivated by gang involvement.

Partida, the deputy district attorney, requested the judge schedule a hearing before the juvenile court judge to present arguments for transferring Beltran’s case to adult court.

Partida also sought protection orders to prevent Beltran from having copies of investigative materials identifying witnesses and victims or their contact information.

Hess argued that Beltran had a right to read and review the files. Gnoss agreed that Beltran can lawfully review the documents with his defense attorney but cannot keep copies of them.

The judge also ordered Beltran to not contact any of the victims directly, on social media or through another person.

Gnoss said Beltran should remain incarcerated at juvenile hall, and said he had a history of delinquency and behavioral issues that were not adequately addressed by previous counseling and other attempts to rehabilitate him.

Beltran also faces misdemeanor charges stemming from a February incident when he is accused of fleeing police during a vehicle pursuit and driving without a license, the judge said.

Beltran’s mother and about a half-dozen other family members attended the hearing. His mother declined to comment after the proceeding. Beltran returns to court June 24.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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