Police arrested a man Thursday they believe was involved in a November drive-by shooting, but officials at the Jackson County District Attorney's Office said they lack the evidence to charge him in the crime.
Known gang member and sex offender Gabriel Perez, 21, allegedly was one of four people in the car from which shots were fired during the drive-by shooting of a Gold Hill man on Beall Lane in Central Point last November.
"I have evidence that he was in the vehicle, but not of any active role that he played in the crime," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert.
Perez was arrested at a residence in the 3000 block of Shelterwood Circle in Medford at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Police, including a SWAT team, had come to the residence during Operation Clear Green, a multi-agency drug sweep that yielded 13 arrests and the seizure of numerous drugs and firearms. Officers saw Perez jump out of a window and take off running. Police caught up with him and arrested him.
He was later jailed on a parole violation for a past sexual assault conviction, unrelated to the November shooting and subsequent car chase.
"I don't have any independent evidence — other than he was in the car — for Mr. Perez's involvement," Heckert said. "Absent some new lead, there are not going to be charges against (him)."
Heckert added there is some forensic evidence tying passenger Francisco Campos, 19, to the crime, but she declined to comment on specifics.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said he was surprised at the decision not to file charges against Perez. His department was the lead law enforcement agency on the original drive-by shooting investigation.
"It is a shock to me. (The evidence) was there," Winters said, adding he wasn't able to comment on the specifics.
The shooting happened at 4 a.m. Nov. 1. Erik Lee Dorey, then 22, and Jennifer Knutson, then 19, were sitting in an Isuzu Rodeo near the corner of Beall Lane and Circle Wood Drive. A car, allegedly driven by 19-year-old Trevor Carbajal, of Dinuba, Calif., pulled up in a 2004 Chevy. A passenger — whom detectives originally suspected was Perez — allegedly fired several gunshots from the Chevy, which shattered the Rodeo's windows and sprayed glass all over the street.
One bullet hit Dorey in the mouth, and Knutson sustained minor injuries. Police later saw the Chevy run a red light and pursued it from Highway 99 up to the 8200 block of Old Stage Road, where the car flipped and rolled down a 40-foot embankment. Central Point resident Gustavo Santiago, 16, a passenger, was ejected from the vehicle and killed. Carbajal and Campos were rushed to a local hospital for treatment. Perez fled and used a different name to receive medical treatment at Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass before fleeing again.
Dorey was later airlifted to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for treatment because of the severity of the wound. He has since been discharged, but OHSU officials could not comment on the exact date of his release. Knutson has said she didn't know any of the men in the car, and police said the shooting could have been a gang initiation ritual of some kind.
Carbajal and Campos have been indicted on attempted aggravated murder and attempted murder charges, among others. Both have pleaded not guilty and have a trial date scheduled for June 26, court records show.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com