Four suspects in the April 19 shooting death of a 23-year-old Goleta man are scheduled for arraignment this Friday on charges including first-degree murder with special circumstances, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of drugs for sale and possession of stolen property.
Shortly after David Montanes was shot four times and killed outside his grandmother’s apartment on East Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, police arrested Jose Romo, 24, running from the scene. Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dover said Romo was initially charged with one count of murder, but additional special circumstance charges have since been filed.
“The defendant was lying in wait and the murder was committed while the defendant was in a criminal street gang,” Dover said. “All four men will be charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.”
Dover said an ongoing investigation into the shooting led to the arrests of Alberto Lule, 24, Jeffrey Meredith, 23, and Matthew Samson, 24, all from Goleta. The investigation also led to a police sweep last week of 37 known residences on a gang association search warrant.
“While the other three weren’t actually the killers, they will be charged with murder for aiding and abetting [Romo],” Dover said. “The y met after the crime to discuss concealing their involvement.”
Sgt. Mike McGrew of the Santa Barbara Police Dept. said that although he knew Montanes and Romo were involved with rival gangs, it remains unclear whether Lule, Meredith or Samson had gang affiliations.
“We know Lule drove the car [of Romo, the alleged shooter],” McGrew said. “Samson and Meredith helped deliver the victim to the scene of the crime. They set him up.”
In addition to the murder and conspiracy charges, Dover said Lule will be charged with two counts of possession of drugs with intent to sell and one count of possession of stolen property after a police search of his home turned up cocaine, marijuana and a stolen plasma television set.
Despite McGrew’s allegations that police have evidence of Montanes’ gang affiliations, relatives of the slain man doubt its validity.
Denise Montanes, the victim’s aunt and a Santa Barbara resident, said on April 22 that her nephew’s classification as a gang member was based on racial assumptions.
“People in Santa Barbara do that,” she said. “They lump everybody into groups; they don’t have any evidence [of gang activity].”