Suspects held to answer after fatal shooting near UC Berkeley

"You don't shoot 7-10 times if there's no intent to kill," the judge said.

Suspects held to answer after fatal shooting near UC Berkeley
Youth pastor Eli Mata'afa, 29, was pursuing his master's in ministry and biblical studies when he was killed near UC Berkeley in 2022. Emilie Raguso/The Berkeley Scanner

Two men who were charged with the murder of a youth pastor near UC Berkeley in 2022 have been held over for trial along with two women police say helped them cover up the crime.

Isamaeli "Eli" Mata'afa was killed, and three of his relatives were wounded, in the shooting at Telegraph and Durant avenues on Oct. 8, 2022, shortly after 1 a.m.

On Wednesday, after a two-day preliminary hearing, Judge Mark McCannon held all four defendants to answer in the murder case, which can now proceed to trial.

The first day of the hearing took place in late January. It continued Wednesday morning and concluded at about 1 p.m.

Read more about shootings in Berkeley.

Police say Michael Monrroy-Ramos and Andy Gutierrez-Rebollo, now both 25, opened fire on Mata'afa, 29, and three of his younger relatives after provoking a fight with them on Telegraph Avenue.

"They walk up on complete strangers asking them 'what's up?' That leads to a fight," Judge McCannon said while making his ruling. "They bit off more than they could chew. When the fight was over, they pulled out guns and started shooting at the victim and his relatives."

A final farewell: Youth pastor Isamaeli ‘Eli’ Mata’afa laid to rest
“He wanted to be a part of change,” his sister said. “He wanted to offer everybody in our community what we were offered. It was his passion.”

Police have said Mata'afa, who has been described as a peacemaker, was not part of the fight but intervened to stop it.

Several bullets struck him, causing him to collapse on Telegraph Avenue, where police quickly found him and rendered aid. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

A bullet that penetrated his lower back and hip area, including his sacrum and multiple organs, was determined to have caused the fatal wound, according to court testimony this week.

Telegraph shooting: Lead investigator takes the stand

Retired Berkeley Police Sgt. Jennifer Wilson, who was the lead investigator on the case, testified for several hours Wednesday before McCannon made his ruling.

Before the shooting, she said, the men had been drinking for hours at The Tap Haus, nearby on Durant Avenue.

The men had fought briefly with each other inside the bar around 1 a.m., as captured on surveillance footage, and then left together, Wilson said.

The pair came into conflict with Mata'afa and his relatives minutes later.

Michael Monrroy-Ramos. BPD

Police used witness statements, cellphone data and surveillance footage to identify Michael Monrroy-Ramos and Andy Gutierrez-Rebollo as the suspects in the case.

Surveillance footage showed a brief physical altercation between the men and their unarmed victims outside Bear Basics, which is located at Telegraph and Durant avenues, police said.

The camera footage did not show the shooting itself.

After the fight, one of the men fired 10 rounds and the other fired seven rounds — but police never recovered their guns or determined which shooter fired the fatal bullet, according to court testimony.

The men managed to walk away from the crime scene but were arrested in the weeks that followed.

Both men were charged with Mata'afa's murder along with the attempted murders of his three relatives, who were ages 22, 24 and 28 at the time.

UPDATE: 1 dead, 3 wounded in shooting near UC Berkeley
One of the men was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital in Oakland, The Berkeley Scanner learned shortly before 8 a.m.

Shifting narratives about Telegraph shooting

When police interviewed Gutierrez-Rebollo in October 2022, his story changed repeatedly, Wilson said.

He ultimately admitted to the fight on Telegraph Avenue and said he and Monrroy-Ramos both fired guns that night, according to court testimony.

Andy Gutierrez-Rebollo. BPD

Gutierrez-Rebollo eventually claimed "he was aiming at the victims' legs and at the ground" with the goal of scaring the group away, Wilson said during cross-examination.

Police said Gutierrez-Rebollo and his girlfriend, Marianna Romero, returned to the area after the shooting.

According to BPD, they picked up a gun Monrroy-Ramos had ditched in the bushes on Durant Avenue and later got rid of it.

The couple has denied those allegations, with Romero saying that she had simply been looking at plants outside a UC Berkeley dorm while Gutierrez-Rebollo smoked a cigarette.

Wilson said Romero had actually been the "lookout" for Gutierrez-Rebollo while he searched for the gun. Romero then felt the recovered item "through his clothing" and believed it to be a firearm, Wilson said.

Defense attorney Peter VanOosting described his client, Andy Gutierrez-Rebollo, as "remorseful" in his statement to police.

"They are never gonna forgive me," he told police, according to VanOosting, when he was asked about Mata'afa's's family. "I'm sorry from the deepest part of my heart, and just let God do his will."

David Cohen, representing Michael Monrroy-Ramos, said his client described firing 10 shots into the air and never expressed remorse for killing anyone — which Cohen implied meant Gutierrez-Rebollo had been the more culpable of the two.

Cohen and VanOosting both told the judge that the prosecution had failed to substantiate murder charges, even for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, when the standard of proof is low.

Prosecutor William Boselli did not make any closing arguments.

Even still, Judge McCannon said it wasn't hard to hold the defendants to answer.

"You say that they weren't the aggressors," McCannon told Cohen and VanOosting. "They played a part in this. They approached some people that they don't even know."

"This is a preliminary hearing," the judge said. "You don't shoot 7-10 times if there's no intent to kill."

2 men incited fight, opened fire during Berkeley shooting, police say
Police say the Oct. 8 shooting was “one of the most horrific acts of violence our community has experienced in recent memory.”

"Arsenal of guns" found during murder investigation

Defense attorneys for both women — Jessyca Monrroy, 33, and Marianna Romero, 25 — said the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against them.

In the weeks after the shooting, authorities charged both women as accessories after the fact.

Jessyca Monrroy. BPD

Monrroy had simply gotten a late-night phone call from her brother, Monrroy-Ramos, saying he needed a ride on Oct. 8, 2022, her attorney Jesse Adams said.

That night, Monrroy-Ramos told his sister police had beaten him up, Adams said, arguing that his client Jessyca hadn't known about the shooting.

Wilson testified that Monrroy and her brother had returned to the scene later to look for evidence — while Monrroy insisted they only went back to look for a ring her brother had lost.

In addition to the accessory charge, Monrroy is also facing a felony gun possession charge. She is a convicted felon, according to court papers, and thus prohibited from owning guns or ammunition.

Police recovered multiple firearms during a search of her bedroom in Union City, Wilson testified Wednesday, including a shotgun under her bed, a loaded handgun in a jacket pocket in her closet, a "big plastic tub" of "firearm pieces" and "hundreds of rounds" of ammunition.

Monrroy insisted that the weapons all belonged to her brother, according to court testimony.

Marianna Romero. BPD

Marianna Romero's attorney Gary Sherrer argued that there was "absolutely no evidence" that she ever tried to help cover up a crime. He also noted that she had no criminal record or prior contacts with police.

He also argued that the charge against his client should be reduced to a misdemeanor.

"The evidence is marginal at best as to her involvement," he said.

McCannon said he disagreed.

"There was enough," the judge said.

"To me it seems like they were really involved," McCannon continued, "plus the arsenal of guns Ms. Monrroy had at the home. She knows that there's guns there in her room. She's a felon and she shouldn't have them."

Both women are out of custody while the men have been in jail since their arrest in 2022.

All four defendants are now set to return to court March 27 for arraignment after the prelim.

See complete coverage of the case. The Berkeley Scanner will continue to share developments as they happen.

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