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Orange County Focus

SANTA ANA : Not-Guilty Plea in Wounding of Child

August 03, 1994|RENE LYNCH

A suspected gang member pleaded not guilty Tuesday to assault and weapons charges stemming from a July 10 shooting that injured a 5-year-old Santa Ana boy caught in a cross-fire.

Rogelio Arenas, 18, of Santa Ana allegedly opened fire on a passing car with a shotgun. Johnathon Garcia was wounded in the back as he was playing on his grandfather's lawn.

Prosecutor Mark Sevigny said it was fortunate that Garcia was not seriously injured. The youngster was hospitalized for one day and released.

"Any number of people could have been killed by this," said Sevigny, who is assigned to the district attorney's gang prosecution unit. "It was extremely dangerous conduct."

Arenas and Richard William Hernandez, 21, also of Santa Ana, were arrested shortly after the shooting on suspicion of attempted murder.

Sevigny said he sought an indictment on assault and weapons charges against Arenas because there was insufficient evidence to prove Arenas intended to kill anyone. He said the case remains under investigation.

The Orange County Grand Jury indicted Arenas last Thursday on felony charges of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle and assault with a firearm. Arenas pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court and is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Deputy Public Defender Dennis Sakai said he was relieved to learn that his client was not indicted on attempted murder charges.

"I don't want to say too much about the case right now, but I believe the charges are now more in line with what the actual evidence can show," Sakai said, but added that he intends to continue fighting the charges.

A trial date is expected to be set for later this year.

Sevigny said that evidence collected so far indicates Hernandez was at the scene of the shooting, and that Hernandez is expected to be charged with the lesser crime of being an accessory after the fact. Hernandez is awaiting a preliminary hearing in Municipal Court.

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