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Gang member faces Manteca murder charge
Jonathan Ruiz
Jonathan Ruiz

The Manteca Police have arrested the person they believe is responsible for the July 21 homicide of 19-year-old Brandon Escobar at Southside Park. 

And the suspect may be eligible for the death penalty.

Jonathan Ruiz, 21, was taken into custody on Wednesday and booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on a host of charges: murder, attempted murder, participation in a criminal street gang, the principal use of a firearm with great bodily injury while being a member of a gang, use of a firearm to cause great bodily injury, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and a special circumstances gang enhancement of murder. 

If the San Joaquin County District Attorney is successful in prosecuting Ruiz on the special circumstances charge, Ruiz could be eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

While Manteca Police have released little information about the case because of the ongoing investigation, two individuals were shot at Southside Park on July 19 just after 1 p.m. Both victims were transported to area hospitals where the 30-year-old victim was treated for a gunshot wound to the hand while Escobar was pronounced dead.  

Police believed from the outset that the attack was not random and that one or both of the men were targeted by the shooter, but because of the sensitive nature of the investigation haven’t released details as to what may have precipitated the gunfire. 

Southside Park, which has a history of gang-related violence, is located less than one mile from the Manteca Police Department. 

Ruiz is currently being held in the San Joaquin County Jail without bail, and isn’t scheduled to appear in court to answer to the charges until Aug. 30 when will appear in Department 8B of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton at 8:30 a.m. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.