UNION CITY, Calif. — Two teenage gang members have been arrested and charged in the November killings of two boys that stunned a San Francisco Bay Area community, authorities announced Friday.
In this Nov. 24, 2019, file photo, community members gather at a memorial site in the parking lot of Searles Elementary School in Union City, Calif., after two minors were shot and killed in the parking lot the day before. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group via AP, File)
Jason Cornejo, 18, of Castro Valley, and a 17-year-old boy from Hayward were charged Thursday with the murders of Sean Withington, 14, and Kevin Hernandez, 11, said Union City Police Chief Jared Rinetti.
The boys were fatally shot on Nov. 23 while sitting in a minivan in the parking lot of Searles Elementary School in Union City.
The teenage suspects are members of a gang but officials didn't name it during a news conference Friday citing the ongoing investigation. A motive in the killings remains under investigation, authorities said.
They were charged with two counts of murder with gang enhancements, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy.
“These killings were done with the benefit, direction and association of a criminal street gang,” he said.
It wasn't immediately known if they had lawyers who could speak on their behalf. Cornejo is scheduled to be arraigned later Friday.
"Violent incidents like this one rarely happen in Union City," Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci said. “This particular case occurred when an outside gang came into Union City to wreak havoc.”
Charging documents against Cornejo allege he and the co-defendant committed the attack as part of an ongoing gang rivalry. They also allege that there were social media posts about Cornejo buying the potential murder weapon — an AK-47 — as well as exchanges between him and the co-defendant discussing their involvement in the shooting, and even posts trying to sell the weapon after the shooting, the East Bay Times reported.
Police in January released a surveillance camera image of a silver car they believe the suspects used. They also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.
The Union City Police Department said in a statement Thursday its officers "in coordination with partner agencies have been dedicating countless hours to bring justice to the families of the victims and closure to the community.”
New Haven Unified School District Superintendent John Thompson said the boys attended schools in the district.
Police Lt. Steve Mendez said there was no sign of a connection between the shooting and the school where it took place. People occasionally gather in the relatively secluded parking lot, Mendez said.
Five law enforcement department and the state's attorney general's office helped in the investigation, officials said.
“A successful investigation, arrest, and we hope prosecution of two suspects — while it may not extinguish the anguish, disbelief or apprehension — maybe what it does is bring a sense of direction and purpose that we have to find some resolution to these senseless acts of violence,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.