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Arrest made in fatal shooting resulting from argument over Mexican states

February 18, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Orange County authorities intercepted a vehicle headed to Mexico and arrested a 21-year-old man wanted in the shooting death of another man who was trying to avoid a fight between two groups over which Mexican state was best.

Ivan Sanchez, of Santa Ana, was being held Friday in the Orange County Jail on $1-million bail after being arrested Thursday on murder and attempted murder charges.

Police said the victim, 35-year-old Esteban Navarrete, was an innocent bystander to the argument that started Sunday night in a Santa Ana restaurant.

“The two groups were on opposite sides of the restaurant. The victim, his wife and two friends were in the middle of the restaurant having dinner,” said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. “He glanced over once.”

The argument led to a fistfight in the parking lot and the participants eventually drove away. Police said that’s when Navarrete and his party decided to leave.

“He’s like, ‘Let’s get out of here before they get back,' " Bertagna said.

But one vehicle, a dark-colored SUV, returned. Police said Sanchez approached Navarrete’s car and when he got out to say he had nothing to do with the argument, Sanchez allegedly shot him in the head.

Acting on a tip from someone who recognized the suspect in restaurant surveillance video released by police, authorities began tracking Sanchez.

They stopped a vehicle Thursday on the 5 Freeway in Tustin that was being driven by Sanchez’s father, who police said was taking his son to Mexico. The father and two others in the vehicle were questioned by police and released.

“The suspect was born here and had never been to Mexico,” Bertagna said. “The irony is the argument that started all this was over which state in Mexico was the best.”

The Orange County district attorney’s office will determine whether to bring further charges, police said. Police also were seeking several people who were with Sanchez on Sunday and fled the scene in the SUV.


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-- Mike Anton