Trial to start for teenager who shot baby in East Palo Alto

S.F. Examiner File PhotoGrief: Ivonne Garcia-Lopez tearfully describes the fatal shooting of her 3-month-old the day after the June 2011 incident. Prosecutors say the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.

The trial is scheduled to begin today for the teenager accused of killing a 3-month-old boy in East Palo Alto last year while shooting into a car occupied by the child’s family.

Fabian Zaragoza of East Palo Alto and another unidentified teen allegedly mistook a member of the family — who had been leaving a baby shower at the time of the June 5, 2011, incident — for a Sureño gang member, according to prosecutors.

Police said two teens fired 15 bullets into the family’s vehicle as they were leaving the party on Wisteria Drive around 1 a.m., injuring both parents and killing the infant boy, Izack Jimenez Garcia.

The baby’s brother, then 4, was not harmed. A day after the shooting, grief-stricken mother Ivonne Garcia-Lopez, who was shot in the leg while in the back seat, blamed herself for not being able to shield her youngest child.

On the night of the shooting, according to police, Zaragoza was seeking vengeance on Sureño members who had beaten him up a week earlier in Redwood City. He thought he saw two of the gang members on Wisteria Drive, near the home where the baby shower was being held, police said. He allegedly left to fetch a gun and returned to the street with an accomplice.

The two teens thought at least one of the Sureños were in the car when they opened fire into it, police said.

Izack Garcia was shot in the head, and his father, who was driving, was hit in the shoulder. Garcia-Lopez said she threw herself over her 4-year-old and hoped that the car seat would protect her 3-month-old.

“I took him out of the car seat and he had a hole in his head,” the devastated mom said at a news conference held a day after the incident.

Zaragoza, who was 17 at the time of the shooting but is being tried as an adult, has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody on no-bail status. Today, the first steps of his trial will begin more than a year after he was indicted by a grand jury on murder charges.

Trial motions are expected to be completed soon and a jury will likely be selected before the new year, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Monday. Opening statements will be in early January, he said.

However, Zaragoza’s attorney, Peter Goldscheider, said Monday that he doesn’t believe a jury will be finalized until after the holidays.

Goldscheider declined to comment on the case before a jury is selected. He has said in the past that the evidence does not prove Zaragoza was the shooter.

Police say Zaragoza made statements implicating himself in the crime, and that the murder weapon was found in his home.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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