Two men charged in rival gang member’s Kent murder

March 18 shooting in North Park neighborhood

Two men face first-degree murder charges for the shooting of a 27-year-old rival gang member March 18 in the North Park neighborhood across from Kent Station and east of the accesso ShoWare Center.

Francisco Lopez-Cruz Jr., 20, of Federal Way, and Andy Castaneda-Rodriguez, 19, of Des Moines, were charged last week for allegedly killing Jose DeSantiago while he socialized with two friends at a small park near the corner of Second Avenue North and West Cloudy Street, according to charging papers. Both men are scheduled to be arraigned on June 23 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Lopez-Cruz, aka “Evil” remains in the King County jail at the Regional Justice Center with bail set at $3 million for the murder charge and bail denied because of earlier state Department of Corrections violations. Castaneda-Rodriguez, aka “Santos” also is in the RJC with bail set at $3 million. Both men have been jailed since March 23 on unlawful possession of a firearm, arrested by Auburn Police.

Both men are United Lokotes (UL) gang members, according to charging documents. Each also faces assault charges for firing shots at the two men with DeSantiago at the park. They also face assault charges for reportedly beating up and shooting a 15-year-old boy in Kent on March 10. The 15-year-old boy and DeSantiago are both known members of South Side Loco (SSL), according to court papers.

“The defendant’s (Lopez-Cruz) actions in the two gang-motivated shootings, for which is now charged with multiple serious violence offenses including premeditated murder, establish clearly that he is an extreme threat to community safety if released,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Terence Carlstrom in charging papers.

Kent Police used surveillance video footage, social media records, cellphone evidence and records, witness interviews and forensic examinations to arrest Lopez-Cruz and Castaneda-Rodriguez for the murder and assaults.

Law enforcement investigations in King County have documented that both gangs participate in a variety of criminal offenses, including murder, assaults, robberies and unlawful possession of firearms. Since early 2017, the two gangs have engaged in a violent and deadly feud. Both gangs use graffiti to demonstrate allegiance to their gangs, to show opposition to their rivals, to mark claimed territory and to display membership by moniker, according to court documents. Kent Police have documentation of both gangs using graffiti within the city.

Lopez-Cruz and Castaneda-Rodriguez attacked the 15-year-old boy while he was in a rear passenger seat of a friend’s car near the entrance of the West Hill Mobile Manor trailer park in the 2400 block of South 260th Street. Multiple male suspects attacked the boy, pulling him out of the car and punching him. Suspects shot at the boy multiple times and struck him once in the arm and once in the leg.

Eight days later in the North Park shooting, Lopez-Cruz and Castaneda-Rodriguez circled the neighborhood in a Audi for about 26 minutes before firing shots at DeSantiago. Paramedics transported DeSantiago to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died the next day of a gunshot wound to the head.

Two days after the shooting, a King County jail inmate and documented UL gang member, called Lopez-Cruz and during the recorded conversation said he saw the news and, “some fool got shot in the head in Kent. I guess it was SSL.” No information had been released to the media up to that point about DeSantiago’s name or his gang affiliation, according to court documents.

Lopez-Cruz replied during the conversation that “(people) are really getting hurt cause of me out here I feel famous, everyone knows about me.”

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