Trial to begin for men accused of fatal bar shooting

More than two years after half a dozen patrons were shot in a crowded Redwood City bar, the two alleged gunmen will face a jury trial.

The special circumstances murder trial for 28-year-old Rolando Fernandez, of San Jose, and 20-year-old Domingo Naranjo, of Redwood City, will begin Wednesday, a judge ruled Monday. Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

It is a decision that can’t come too soon for the families of the three men who perished in the April 15, 2006, attack on Headquarters Bar, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

“For the victims’ families awaiting trial, the clock and the calendar stop. They just need closure on it,” he said.

Prosecutors believe Fernandez and Naranjo were part of opposing groups of menwho got into an argument that escalated into a gun battle. The two men allegedly began shooting from different sides of the bar. When the bullets stopped flying, three men were dead and another three injured.

Killed in the early morning fracas was Redwood City resident Humberto Calderon Jr., who was celebrating his 18th birthday at the Second Street tavern. Hemerenciano Mendoz, 38, of East Palo Alto, and Jesus Hernandez, 28, of Redwood City, also died.

Both the prosecution and defense agree on one point — that the case will be difficult. The chaos and panic that ensued in the bar will be a factor in the testimony of some witnesses, and alcohol has impaired the memories of others.

A Headquarters waitress will be an important witness for the prosecution, Wagstaffe said. The three men who were injured, including one whose thumb was shot off, are also expected to testify.

Defense attorney Lee Davis, who is representing Fernandez, said some of the witnesses in the case have gang ties. His client, who worked in real estate, is not affiliated with any gang, he said.

Though prosecutors believe an argument about who was tougher led to the shooting, Davis said he still isn’t sure what preceded the carnage.

“I don’t know and I don’t think we ever will. You talk to four different people and get five different explanations,” he said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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