Fresno teen shooting suspects charged as adults, plead not guilty

FRESNO, Calif.

On Monday, 17 year old Jaime Gonzalez and 16 year olds Gilberto Ramos and Nicholas Padilla sat quietly, with their hands shackled and their feet chained, inside a Fresno County courtroom as the judge read the charges against them.

Each one pleaded "not guilty" to charges of robbery, discharging a gun with the intent to kill or injure and committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

The fourth defendant, 16 year old Jose Zinzun pleaded "not guilty" to the same charges in court last week before he was hauled away to the Juvenile Justice Center.

Fresno County District Attorney Noelle Pebet said, if tried and convicted, all four teens could be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after a minimum of 26 years. Although Gonzalez was identified as the shooter and later confessed to committing the crime to police, she said all of them were charged as if they pulled the trigger.

"We're taking this case serious because of the actual events, what actually happened in this case," said Pebet. "Because of the way the law is structured, we can charge people who are in active participation in the crime with the gun, with the results of using the gun," she said.

The shooting happened the night before the Fresno Unified school district went on winter break.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced the arrests on Christmas Eve where he described the teens as "ruthless Nortenos trying to prove their value to the gang."

He said the boys went to Edison High School to steal computers and shot 30 year old Steven Guerrero during a scuffle after they discovered him inside a classroom.

Guerrero had just called his wife to let her know he was on his way home from working after hours, when he was confronted by the four boys.

Dyer said the teens were armed with a hand gun and tried to steal Guerrero's laptop.

"They walked in and asked the teacher if he wanted to be shot. The teacher put his hands up in air," said Dyer.

Guerrero eventually fought back and was shot several times in the stomach and leg. Action News later learned the teacher was able to get a hold of the gun before the teens got away.

"Ultimately he did get the handgun and placed it against the chest of the 17 year -old and attempted to fire the weapon however it did not fire," Dyer said in a news conference December 24th.

He said Police got a break in the case when a 62 year old woman came forward to report she was assaulted by four boys on nearby Irwin Avenue earlier in the day.

"They began to beat her and knocked her to the ground and continued to kick her while she was on the ground," said Dyer.

She then led investigators to several houses where they got their big break - a bullet matching one found on campus.

Detectives said surveillance video traced at least one of the suspects to the crime scene.

Back in court, family members of Nicholas Padilla, said they were shocked to learn he was involved in such horrific crimes.

His cousin, who did not want to be identified by name, described him as "helpful" and "family-oriented" and said she's worried he'll never be able to see the outside of a prison cell for the rest of his life.

"It's shocking to our family and heartbreaking that he'd be involved in this kind of act and I just want to apologize to Mr. Guerrero's family," she said. "We're a very close family, he's always at our functions and he always plays around with his brothers. My cousin has no criminal history, record, nothing, but it doesn't change the fact he was there.

All four defendants are scheduled to be back in court on Friday for a status hearing. Until then, they're being held at the Juvenile Justice Center on $660,000 bail each.

In the meantime, Guerrero is back at home with his family and recovering from his injuries. And school administrators are looking into added security on the Edison High School campus at night.

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