TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Juan Javier Zuniga-Gonzales, 17, and Trino Valentino Martinez, 21, with murder in the first degree and two counts of attempted murder in the first degree for the November 2015 shooting death of 18-year-old Elijah Jheryl Crawford on Tacoma’s eastside. A third co-defendant, Alberto Colt-Sarmiento, 23, was previously charged in the murder. All pleaded not guilty and are being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
“This is a senseless shooting over nothing of any significance,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
On Nov. 2, 2015, Tacoma Police responded to a shooting on the eastside of the city. Upon arriving, they found Crawford with a gunshot wound to the chest. He died at the scene. Officers found another teen nearby with gunshot wounds to the shoulder and face. He was transported to the hospital and treated.
A third teen, Eddie Contreras, was uninjured and spoke with officers. Contreras said he and his friends were meeting up with Colt-Sarmiento so they could fist fight. When Contreras and his friends pulled into the arranged meeting location, they got out of the car and walked towards Colt-Sarmiento. A man wearing a hood with a blue bandana on his face walked out of the bushes and fired his gun at the teens.
Officers located two clusters of .40 caliber shell casings – one near the bushes and the other near where Colt-Sarmiento had been standing.
Contreras told detectives that he and Colt-Sarmiento had arranged the meeting while conversing on Facebook. Contreras and Colt-Sarmiento had recently been in a fist fight and Colt-Sarmiento wanted to fight again. Contreras said he agreed to fight as long as weapons were not involved.
While searching Colt-Sarmiento’s phone, detectives discovered text messages between him, Zuniga-Gonzales and Martinez. The text messages exchanged between Colt-Sarmiento and Martinez the day before the murder include, “KILLKILLKILL” and “well smoke em.”
When interviewed by detectives, Martinez admitted to being in the vehicle at the time of the shooting and he said Zuniga-Gonzales was the shooter.
Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office