The prime suspect in a Sunday evening homicide in Salina was arrested without incident Monday evening in Dodge City after the vehicle he was in was pursued and stopped by police, authorities in both cities said Tuesday.
Jose M. Garay, 28, of Salina, wanted for shooting to death Salinan Derek Dean Rico, 17, was arrested along with two former Salinans. All three apparently had been staying at an apartment in Dodge City.
Garay’s companions, David Moreno and Abigail Soto, at first denied that they knew Garay was wanted in connection with Rico’s murder. But a news account of the crime was their undoing, said Dodge City Police Chief Robin James.
“We found something in the apartment that makes it reasonable to connect these people to a charge of aiding and abetting,” he said.
That “something” was a copy of Monday morning’s Salina Journal, which was found on a coffee table. On the front page of the newspaper was the headline “Man shot dead,” photos of the crime scene and an account of the shooting.
Deputy Salina Police Chief Carson Mansfield said Tuesday that Garay and Moreno were taken into custody from a vehicle that was stopped by authorities sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Monday. Soto was arrested later at the apartment, James said.
Garay was brought to the Saline County Jail by Salina authorities Monday night. His bond has been set at $750,000 for one count of first degree murder in connection with Rico’s death. Rico was killed by a single gunshot at 7:40 p.m. Sunday, near the playground in Sunset Park, as the park was crowded with people taking advantage of a cool Sunday evening. Some were attending a large party in the picnic shelter.
James said Moreno and Soto remained in the Ford County Jail Tuesday in Dodge City. Each is expected to face one count of aiding a felon in Ford County District Court, Mansfield said.
He said the investigation is continuing and other charges could be filed in Saline County.
“A lot of police work and a lot of great cooperation with the Dodge City Police Department” led to Garay’s arrest, Mansfield said.
Investigators were working with “very thin leads” that built up until officers had reason to believe that Garay had fled to Dodge City, where Moreno, 28, and Soto, 20, formerly of Salina, now live, Mansfield said.
James said that his department received information from Salina police detectives that Garay claimed affiliation with the Surenos, a Latino gang.
“We definitely have an element of the Surenos here (in Dodge City). We’re aware of their presence,” James said. “We have had contact with them.”
Dodge City police detectives did some digging and came up with a possible area of the city in which they thought Garay might show up, he said. They staked out the area and observed a man matching Garay’s description coming out of an apartment. The man got into a car with another man.
Officers pursued the car for about four blocks until officers in other vehicles were able to box the car in, James said. The chase never reached high speeds. The car was stopped in a residential area on the east side of town, he said. The men inside were arrested without incident, James said. About five officers were involved in the chase.
James said there was a concern that Garay was armed or might try to shoot at officers trying to arrest him.
However, neither of the men was armed, and the murder weapon wasn’t located inside the car or elsewhere, James said. Monday, Mansfield said Rico was shot with a medium-caliber handgun.
“It’s always a concern, but I think the detectives were prepared and had enough people on the scene to contain and control the situation,” he said.
James said detectives discovered the Salina newspaper on the coffee table as they were searching the apartment for evidence.
“Our guys did some excellent detective work. All we had was his name and the fact he was a gangster,” James said.
Soto and Moreno are known to Salina police from previous cases. Soto reportedly provided information to authorities about a weapon used in the shooting of Torrean Hughley in March 2008.
Hughley was shot numerous times at Woodland Park by Cesar Ramos, the brother of Juan Pablo Ramos Jr., 18, of Salina. Juan Ramos pleaded guilty to aiding a felon in that case and served nine months in a juvenile correctional facility.
Ramos was arrested on a charge of aiding a felon in connection with Sunday’s shooting. He is accused of driving the shooter to or from Sunset Park, or both, authorities have said. Ramos is scheduled to make his first court appearance by video from the Saline County Jail at 8:30 a.m. today.
Moreno has previous arrests involving felony drug charges, and at least two attempts to flee officers trying to arrest him for allegedly violating his probation. He has pleaded guilty in the past to misdemeanor charges that include fleeing and eluding, obstruction of justice, trespassing and traffic charges.
n Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at [email protected]