A fatal shooting at Southcrest Community Park in February was connected to a two-year crime spree, police said. Photo via OnScene.TV

Police connected a series of violent crimes in four communities over nearly two years, resulting in the arrests of four men suspected of murder.

Another man, Jorge Manuel Sanchez, faces additional charges, but already had been jailed since the summer, after his arrest for allegedly killing his live-in girlfriend.

The men range in age from 18 to 28, and gang allegations are attached to each crime, according to Lt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department. The alleged felonies include murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Between April of 2018 and February of 2020, San Diego and National City police investigated several violent cases in the Bay Terraces, Mountain View and Shelltown neighborhoods of San Diego, as well as in National City.

Three of them – two killings and an attempt on another man’s life – took place over three weeks in the summer of 2019.

They include the July 12, 2019 shooting death of Joaquin Ruiz in Bay Terraces. John Orozco, 26, of El Cajon, entered a not-guilty plea in the case on Thursday.

Orozco, police said, also faces charges in an attempted murder 12 days later.

The authorities also have charged Ethan Apan, 28, and Kevin Herrera, 26, both of National City, in Ruiz’s killing.

Police suspect Apan in two other cases – the Aug. 1, 2019 murder of Marco Magana and joining Orozco in the July 24, 2019 attempted murder.

Sanchez, 18, of San Diego, had previously been arrested in connection with the murder of his girlfriend, Emily Cortez, 19, in Mountain View on July 15. He pled not guilty in that case.

He now faces charges in the same attempted murder case as Adan and Orozco, and the Magana case, along with the Feb. 2 shooting death of Leah Michelle Posey, in which a 16-year-old companion also was wounded.

Police at the time said the shooting of Posey and the teen, at Southcrest Community Park, “did not appear to be a random act of violence.”

Investigators also arrested Ismael Betancourt, 20, of National City, on suspicion of killing Lowry Rivers on April 8, 2018.

Police took Betancourt into custody on Thursday. They arrested Apan and Herrera on Tuesday, and Orozco on Nov. 11.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office currently is reviewing these cases, Brown said, and the investigations are on-going.

Anyone with information regarding the incidents is asked to call SDPD’s Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

– Staff reports