A biker heads south off Martin Street into an alley near where a 26-year-old died of stab wound about 1:15 a.m. Sunday.

Updated: Twenty-six-year-old man, stabbed during fight, died in
middle of street
A 26-year-old man was stabbed to death early this morning and another man was injured in a fight outside El Rio Nilo in downtown Gilroy, police said. The death is the first murder this year and the first in almost 11 months.

“He had a white shirt and his whole shirt was full of blood,” Bob Tapella, owner of Garlic City Billiards, said of the murder victim. The back door of Tapella’s billiards parlor looks out on where the 26-year-old died, near the intersection of the railroad tracks and Martin Street – less than a block east of Monterey Street and downtown.

It was about 1:15 a.m. and Tapella had already closed up shop for the night when he saw a bunch of security guards running north on Monterey Street following a car, he said. The car went to Fifth Street and then hung a left, speeding out of sight westbound.

Hearing screams coming from behind his business, he headed out the back door of the billiard’s parlor and saw three people in the middle of Martin Street. One man – the Hispanic 26-year-old that later died – was lying spread eagle on his back, his feet facing westward.

Tapella rushed over to the man, who was still moving and talking but quickly losing his mental faculties, he said. Two other men – also covered in blood – knelt above the 26-year-old, crying and wailing.

A 23-year-old Hispanic male was also stabbed in the attack that led to the death of the 26-year-old, according to police. The injured man was taken to a local hospital to be treated for non-life threatening wounds, police added. Tapella could not say whether the 23-year-old was one of the two men kneeling over the murder victim, but said one of those two men was taken to a hospital.

The stabbing occurred when at least two of the three men got into a fight with at least two other men on Martin Street just before it intersects with Monterey Street, police and security guards from Rio Nilo said. In addition, at least some of the men had been inside the club – located at 7474 Monterey St. – and were kicked out of it, Tapella said.

At 1:18 a.m., Tapella called police and told them of the stabbing. At that point, several security guards from Rio Nilo and the owner of the club were outside with him and the three men.

Police arrived soon after – while the 26-year-old was still alive – but firefighters and ambulances did not arrive for at least 10 minutes, Tapella said.

“It sure took a while for those guys to show,” he said.

The 26-year-old was later pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Police are searching for two suspects in the stabbings – a white adult male who was wearing a blue, button-down shirt and another man for whom police did not release a description.

Police are also searching for two vehicles in connection with the murder: a white or silver Chrysler Sebring convertible – driven by the man in the blue shirt – with a tan or dark top and license plate that includes the three-letter chunk, DMC; and a large Silver pickup truck that followed the convertible away from the scene.

The convertible had been parked on the south side of Martin Street about halfway between the railroad tracks and Monterey Street, Tapella said. Tapella did not know where the truck was parked but said it also sped west on Martin Street, north on Monterey Street and then west on Fifth Street. The truck had a silver toolbox in the back and a Rio Nilo security guard knocked out one of the windows on one of the vehicles with a flashlight, Tapella said.

Police withheld the names of both victims and did not provide a description of either. Tapella said the murder victim was wearing jeans and had dark curly hair. In addition, Tapella said the victim’s friends said the murder victim had at least one child.

Police did not return phone calls this evening to confirm eyewitness accounts of the incident. Personnel at Rio Nilo would not comment on the incident until they talked with police

Few murders, but both downtown

The death of the 26-year-old is the only murder of 2008 and the first murder in Gilroy almost 11 months. However, both attacks occurred downtown about three blocks apart.

“Last year – murder downtown,” Tapella said this afternoon while walking over the crime scene, pointing out the details of the incident and waving to people walking and biking by. “This year – murder downtown. It’s not good.”

Early in the morning of April 29, 2007, 56-year-old Juan Lugo was found in an alley behind La Colonia Latina, located on Monterey Street between Eighth and Old Gilroy streets. Lugo, whose body was riddled with stab wounds, lay next to his bluish 10-speed bicycle, on which he was known to circle downtown, neighbors and police said.

Police have been unable to find a motive for the killing. Lugo, from whom nothing was stolen – not even the cash in his wallet – was widely rumored to be gay, Lugo’s son said, but police have not investigated the case as a hate crime.

In mid-May, police arrested 21-year-old Tomas Martinez Romero and turned him over to the district attorney, who charged him with murder. However, the charge was dropped two months later. Romero is now being charged with two counts of attempted murder and other charges in an unrelated shooting.

This morning, police again set up a crime scene in downtown, blocking off Martin Street from Monterey Street to Railroad Street so they could collect evidence. Among other things, police towed away two cars – one of which had two spots of blood on it – to put into evidence and firefighters hosed down the scene so that there was no sign of blood, Tapella said.

Due to the block being cordoned off, OD’s Kitchen closed for the day and put up a sign saying it would reopen Monday morning.

Other local business owners and developers worry that two murders downtown in less than a year will drive away potential customers and business owners.

The murder is “a black eye for the downtown,” said developer Gary Walton, who owns the building at the intersection of Martin and Monterey streets where a skate shop now sits. “It gives the impression that the downtown is not that safe” – an unfair conclusion when Gilroy’s crime rates are compared to other nearby cities, he said.

Despite the murder, Rio Nilo was open again tonight about 10 p.m., with loud Spanish music blasting out the doors, manned by two security guards. The guards frisked all the men – a practice that was in place before this morning’s incident, guards said – in the cowboy hat-donning crowd before stamping their hand and letting them inside.

With Rio Nilo and other bars still drawing a crowd, business owners believe that a potential for crime will continue to exist due to the outpouring of revelers that occurs when bars close at 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.

“You have an area that definitely needs more police patrols, particularly when these bars are getting out,” Walton said.

Police did not return phone calls for comment this evening.

How you can help

Anyone with information regarding this case can contact Gilroy Police Department Detective Stan Devlin at 846-0335. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call and leave information at 846-0330.

More information on this developing story will be posted online Monday and will appear in Tuesday’s paper.

Previous articleCommunity bulletin: Home and School club hosts dinner tonight
Next articleCommunity bulletin: Student film festival training session Wednesday
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here