The County of Santa Barbara District Attorney on Monday charged 24-year-old Jose Benigno Romo with the murder of 23-year-old Goleta resident David Montanes.
Romo allegedly shot Montanes four times in a parking lot on Ortega Street in downtown Santa Barbara at about 8 p.m. on Saturday. According to police, Romo fled from the scene of Montanes’ murder – an apartment complex where the victim’s grandmother lives – to the 300 block of De La Guerra Street. Police said the handgun Romo used in the shooting was found on Laguna Street.
Although the officer investigating this crime could not be available for comment, police have said that Romo may be a gang member. Whether Montanes’ shooting was gang-related, however, is unclear.
Denise Montanes, a Santa Barbara resident, said she did not know if her nephew was associated with gang activity, but resented such assumptions by the investigators and reporters covering the murder.
“People in Santa Barbara do that. They lump everybody into groups,” she said. “They don’t have any evidence [of any gang activity] … I get asked who his friends were. How should I know who his friends were?”
Montanes called her nephew “a normal kid” whom she knew well as a child. She also said that David, like his father, was an artist and avid baseball player.
“He was a gorgeous boy, smart and polite. I enjoyed having him over to my house,” she said. “We’re all very distraught.”
Montanes said services for her nephew will probably be held Friday. The investigation into his death – the first murder this year in city of Santa Barbara and the fourth in the county – is ongoing. Police have said that despite Romo’s possible gang affiliation, the Montanes’ death was probably not gang-related.
Relatives of Jose Benigno Romo could not be reached for comment.