Families decry DA's handling of 'Angel and Jazy' murder case

The young man charged with killing both boys and wounding two others at a birthday party in 2022 will be free by age 25 as per the current deal.

Families decry DA's handling of 'Angel and Jazy' murder case
A memorial poster for Angel and Jazy Sotelo Garcia at their funeral mass in October 2022. Emilie Raguso/The Berkeley Scanner

The case of two young brothers from Berkeley who were killed at a friend's birthday party will stay in juvenile court, the Alameda County DA's office has decided.

As a result, the teenager who was charged with both murders, as well as the attempted murders of two other boys, will be out of custody by age 25 — and possibly much sooner, victim families who are upset with the decision told The Scanner this week.

"It feels like it's not enough," cousin Melani Garcia Macias said. "You killed two of my family members and you are getting what feels like a slap on the wrist. You just took a whole lifetime away from two people."

Angel and Jazy Sotelo Garcia were killed at a birthday party in North Oakland for a fellow Berkeley High student when several people crashed it and opened fire in 2022.

The brothers were innocent victims, police have said. Angel was 15 and Jazy had just turned 17 days before he was killed.

Angel and Jazy were beloved in the Berkeley community as well as the broader East Bay, where they played soccer. They grew up in Berkeley and attended Berkeley High.

The boys' deaths sent shockwaves through the Bay Area and a fundraiser to help their family raised more than $120,000. Hundreds of people attended a vigil for the boys and their funeral in a Berkeley church was standing-room only.

Witnesses said three people opened fire at the birthday party. Only one was ever charged.

Many of the students who saw what happened have been too afraid to come forward.

As a result, progress in the case has been slow.

Last year in March, the DA's office filed murder charges in juvenile court against a teenager who had been six weeks shy of 18 when the shooting happened, on Oct. 1, 2022.

Around that time, a veteran prosecutor in the juvenile division also filed a motion to move the case to adult court, in line with past office practices.

That prosecutor was later transferred out of the juvenile division and the case seemingly stalled.

In recent weeks, however, the DA's office asked relatives of Angel and Jazy to write letters about how the boys' deaths had affected them and why they wanted the case moved to adult court.

Relatives of one of the boys who was wounded also submitted letters.

Remembering Angel and Jazy: ‘Why my two boys?’ mother asks
She said she hopes the community will help support a scholarship fund that was created by BHS classmates to honor the boys.

In her letter to the DA's office, Maria Garcia, mother of Angel and Jazy, pleaded for accountability and for justice for her shattered family.

She begged for the defendant, who is now 19, to be tried as an adult.

"I implore you not to lose sight of the victims in this narrative. The defendant is not a victim; he is a perpetrator of heinous acts," she wrote. "The defendant's age should not shield him from the consequences of his actions; it should underscore the urgency to address the threat he poses to society."

She described the shooting as a calculated act that should not be "dismissed as the impulsive act of a minor."

"The defendant knew what he was doing from the first moment he left his house that night, the second he acquired the weapon, and he entered the house to shoot and kill," she wrote. "I stand before you, pleading for justice not just for my sons but for the countless lives disrupted by the defendant's actions."

Read more about Angel and Jazy on The Scanner.

In her letter, the grandmother of one of the surviving boys wrote that the incident had been a mass shooting and should be approached as such.

"I do not know anything about the juvenile shooter’s background but I do know that he used an adult weapon of war, entered a house masked, and fired indiscriminately at a group of innocent teenagers celebrating a birthday party," she wrote. "He took the lives of those he did not even know and created a scene of horror no children should have to witness or experience."

Despite their emotional pleas, both families were told early last week that there would be no transfer hearing, meaning the case would stay in juvenile court.

"It just feels very frustrating," cousin Melani Garcia Macias said. "In a moment in which we need empathy and compassion, which we have been receiving so generously from the community, we have not been receiving that from the district attorney."

"It feels like we're just being met with an iron fist," she said. "It feels like she doesn't really care."

DA won't transfer minors to adult court — in most cases

As part of her campaign platform, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has said she is committed to "stop over-criminalizing our youth," which includes establishing "age-appropriate programs to address criminal violations by youths between 18 and 25" and not charging or incarcerating people under 18 as adults.

Price also said, in a directive last year, that her office "will no longer move to transfer children to the adult court system" as a general practice.

"In extraordinary circumstances and in cases involving especially vulnerable victims, adult criminal court may be deemed warranted on a narrowly construed, case-by-case basis," according to the directive, which was obtained from the DA's office through a Public Records Act request.

The juvenile directive also stated that "All pending motions to transfer children to adult court jurisdiction that have not previously been approved by the District Attorney shall be withdrawn at the soonest available court date."

The directive also explained that any ongoing case where a "child has been transferred to adult criminal court" would automatically be reconsidered if the defense asks for it.

"Prosecutors shall not argue that a child should remain in adult criminal court if defense counsel argues for their case to be heard in juvenile court," according to the directive.

A teenage boy killed an innocent girl. The DA wants him freed.
The probation department says the Lilron Jones case should go back to adult court. The Alameda County DA’s office says it disagrees.

"The wrong approach"

Victim family members who spoke with The Scanner this week said they felt the case was exceptional enough to be heard in adult court.

"I am not a tough-on-crime person. I am totally progressive," said the mother of one of the wounded boys, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It's not that I believe that he should be in prison for life," she said of the defendant. But she called it disturbing and offensive "that two lives are only worth seven years or less."

Read more court coverage on The Scanner.

She said she appreciated that the DA's office had met with both families and provided information before the plan was announced in open court.

But she said, nonetheless, the decision was "very disappointing."

"This is the wrong approach," she said. "To be lenient on misdemeanors, yes: at that point in the system where we are overcriminalizing. To be so lenient on the worst crimes, that doesn't help anything."

Over the past year, critics of DA Pamela Price, who was elected in November 2022 on a platform of systemic change, have said she prioritizes defendant rights over victims and is too soft on crime.

Price is now facing a recall effort, with news expected in the coming weeks about whether the recall campaign has qualified for the ballot.

On Thursday, the Alameda County DA's office did not respond to a Scanner inquiry about its broader juvenile policy but said only that it is "prohibited from commenting on any cases involving juveniles."

This is an ongoing investigation. Police ask anyone with information to call the OPD Homicide Section at 510-238-3821.

Source protection is of the utmost importance to The Scanner. If you have insights about the Alameda County DA's office, we want to hear from you. Contact The Scanner through our tips form or on Signal: 510-459-8325.