San Diego Police shooting Mount Hope
Erick Balanzar. Photo credit: Screen shot,

A group of teens suspected in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy in Mount Hope entered not guilty pleas in a San Diego courtroom Thursday.

Authorities arrested Bryan Escobedo, 18, Ethan Peaslee-Guerrero, 19, and Omar Morales, 18, on suspicion of murder along with a 17-year-old boy, whose name was not released because of his age, following Monday’s deadly shooting.

Another underage suspect, also 17, arrested Wednesday afternoon is believed to be the shooter, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry said at the adult defendants’ arraignment Thursday afternoon.

The two juveniles are awaiting their first court appearances. The three adult defendants remain in custody without bail.

Officials have not disclosed a motive for the shooting, though the criminal complaint includes gang allegations.

The suspects were taken into custody about an hour after the killing, which happened around 4:15 p.m. near the intersection of 36th and J streets. The victim, who was shot at least once, died at a hospital, according to the San Diego Police Department.

Officials have not released his name, but family members – who also have set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs – have identified him to media outlets as Erick Balanzar.

According to police, the victim was walking with a group of people on 36th Street when at least one gunshot was fired from a silver SUV.

“The vehicle sped away, but the plate was reported to police,” police Lt. Jud Campbell said.

Campbell said the license plate was traced to a Toyota Highlander spotted earlier Monday at a fight attended by a large crowd at 1155 C St., a few blocks south of San Diego High School.

At around 3:35 p.m., San Diego Unified school police requested SDPD assistance in responding to the incident.

“Some of the members of the crowd left in the silver Toyota Highlander,” Campbell said.

At 5:07 p.m., the vehicle was located at 4600 Utah St., with Escobedo, Peaslee-Guerrero, Morales and the 17-year-old near the vehicle, according to the lieutenant.

When officers approached, two of the suspects ran and two were detained, Campbell said. The runners were located in a nearby apartment and taken into custody.

The second juvenile suspect was arrested just after 1 p.m. Wednesday during a traffic stop on El Cajon Boulevard near Interstate 805, according to Campbell. He did not disclose how investigators identified the minor as a suspect.

– City News Service

Updated 6:30 p.m. Jan. 3, 2022