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Man gets 40 years in fatal shooting after restaurant argument

September 7, 2012 |  4:17 pm

A 19-year-old gang member was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for his role in fatally shooting a man he erroneously thought he had been in an argument with over which state in Mexico was better, Orange County prosecutors said Friday.

The shooting occurred outside a Santa Ana restaurant where the victim had dined with his wife and a friend.

Richard Guerra Rocha, who was 17 at the time of the shooting but prosecuted as an adult, was found guilty  of murder and street terrorism in June, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

Prosecutors said that on Feb. 13, 2011, Rocha was with a group that included his sister and another man at Mariscos La Ola restaurant in Santa Ana. The three got in an argument with another group over which state in Mexico was better, prosecutors said. 

Rocha's group left to get a gun and then returned to the restaurant's parking lot within minutes, prosecutors said. 

When they returned, Esteban Navarrete, 35, was getting into a car with his wife and a friend. Prosecutors described him as an "innocent" customer who wasn't part of the group that was arguing.

Rocha's sister, Maria Isabel Rocha, waited in the car as Rocha and their friend, Ivan Sanchez, approached Navarrete, authorities said. Navarrete got out of his vehicle and explained that he was not involved in the earlier argument.

But Sanchez shot Navarrete once in the head anyway, killing him, prosecutors said. He fired several more times, but no one else was hit, prosecutors said.

Sanchez and Rocha are both charged with murder and could face sentences of up to 50 years to life. 


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-- Rick Rojas