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Santa Ana shooting suspects caught on tape

February 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A fight between two groups of people inside a Santa Ana restaurant left an innocent man dead, and police need the public's help finding the suspects.

Surveillance video shows three men and a woman entering a restaurant in Santa Ana on Sunday night. Police say they soon get into a verbal fight with another group of customers seated on the other side.

"This fight was over whose state in Mexico was better," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

The three male suspects headed to the restroom, followed by members of the other group. Police say the two sides then get into a fist fight outside the restaurant.

Esteban Navarrete, his wife and another couple were seated inside the restaurant when the verbal fight began, and Navarrete, the 35-year-old hospital worker, became an innocent victim who only wanted to avoid getting caught in the fight happening around them.

"He tells his party, 'Hey let's get out of here before they come back.' That's why they left. Unfortunately for him, they didn't get out of there fast enough," Bertagna said.

Police say Navarrete and his wife were getting into their car when for some unknown reason, the suspects approached and fired several times. He was rushed to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to his head. Authorities say he was declared brain dead on Tuesday night.

"My brother is not a gang member," said the victim's brother Ramiro Navarrete.

Ramiro Navarrete says his brother was a hard worker who had been employed at a hospital for 15 years. He has no criminal record.

His family is desperate to find the people responsible for his death.

"It's really sad when you think about it. An argument over a state ends up with death of an innocent individual. It's just crazy," Bertagna said.

Police say the suspects were seen leaving in a dark-colored SUV. Anyone with information is urged to call the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8390.