Last month, a 16-year-old San Jose teen Ivan Diaz Amezcua was stabbed to death during a confrontation with 24-year-old homeless man Todd Tharp at John D. Morgan Park in Campbell, California. On Wednesday, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office charged five of the victim's acquaintances — four teenagers and one 20-year-old, and all Sureño affiliates — with Diaz's murder.
When police arrived to John D. Morgan Park around 8:30 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, March 16th, they found Tharp near a baseball field in poor condition, looking like he had been in a serious fight. Later that evening, Campbell police officers learned Diaz had been taken to a nearby emergency room where he was rushed into surgery to be treated for stab wounds. Diaz died around 3 a.m. the next morning.
Tharp was found with a six-inch hunting knife and originally arrested last month on suspicion of murdering Diaz. Friends of both Diaz and Tharp claimed neither person was violent or confrontational. According to Diaz's family, the teen had headed to the park for a barbecue with a group of friends. Tharp, however, claimed he was jumped, kicked in the head and struck with a bottle by a group of teens he though were drunk or on drugs. In a jailhouse interview, Tharp told KTVU, "It was strictly self-defense. I carry that knife as a tool and absolute last resort and never had to use it to protect my life before that." The Santa Clara District Attorney's office agreed and dismissed the case against him.
The legal twist came a few weeks later via California's "Provocative Act" doctrine, which Campbell Police Department spokesman Sgt. Gary Berg helpfully explained to the local NBC affiliate:
Under the "provocative act" doctrine, a person can be guilty of murder even if someone else did the actual killing, Berg said. The provocative act doctrine applies when a person did not actually do the killing, but caused a third party to kill in response to his or his accomplices' life-threatening act.
According to Berg, the five suspects — Anthony Fernandez, 20, of Stockton; Joshua Mauricio, 18, of San Jose; Alejandro Sandoval, 18, of San Jose; Julio Ibarra, 17, San Jose, and Brallan Villegas, 17, of San Jose — are all affiliated with the local Sureños. Campbell police believe the five suspects started the fight with Tharp, who tried to defend himself and injured Diaz in the process.
All five have been charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. All three charges carry a gang enhancement and if convicted, each suspect is facing 15 years to life in prison. The two minors are being charged as adults.
Still, friends of Diaz couldn't wrap their heads around the procedural drama: "They didn't murder him. Those are his friends," one anonymous friend of the slain boy told NBC Bay Area. "Why would they want harm on him?"
Anyone with any additional information about the attack is asked to contact the Campbell Police Department Investigations Unit at 408-871-5190. Or anonymously via Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP (7867).
[NBC Bay Area]