By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When one of the Sacramento men issued a macho challenge, Santos or Scheerer tried to deflect it. But then, Thomas said, Santos called his friends on his cell phone for backup. "He told his friends, 'Yeah these four dudes tried to jump us. These little bitches out here ... these niggas out here.'"
Jett couldn't let that go. He shouted at Santos, whom Thomas described as "the little dude." Santos ran as Jett, Núñez and the others demanded that Scheerer explain why his friend called them "bitches" and "homeboys." Jett allegedly threw a punch at Scheerer and missed, and Scheerer allegedly threw his drink — then ran.
According to Thomas, Santos reappeared with four or five guys, and the two sides began throwing punches. Yet almost immediately, Thomas said, Núñez began urging, "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" and one of Santos' friends yelled, "I think I got stabbed!" Núñez responded: "Yeah, I got one of them!"
The cover-up began immediately. Back at the apartment in San Diego, Garcia's brother Felipe allegedly washed the knives while Jett and Núñez washed Jett's bloody clothes. Thomas asked Jett about the stab wound on his leg, and Jett allegedly responded: "I wouldn't cut myself. How stupid would that be?"
Later in Sacramento, Núñez allegedly told Thomas and the others that "whatever happens, he would take the rap for it." Jett said that they had to "stick together." But the greater hope was voiced by Núñez, who, according to Thomas, said his father Fabian would take care of the matter — and get them off on self-defense.
A few weeks later, a crucial, independent eyewitness came forward, student Connor Henderson. He told detectives that minutes before Santos was killed, Henderson and his friend Spencer Sellers spoke to Santos near Cox Arena. Sellers had just been in a fight with some thugs who'd said "inappropriate things" to his girlfriend.
Santos and his friends, drinking from a vodka bottle, weighed in by telling Henderson his own war story about being "jumped" once in Tijuana — and claimed he subsequently always carried a "piece" and "wasn't afraid of anyone." But, according to Henderson, four strangers sitting on a low wall nearby, close enough to hear all their talk, began throwing insults at Santos and Scheerer.
Henderson said he heard one guy, a "white male," say to Santos, "Well, you got your piece, I've got mine." To Henderson, it appeared that the four guys had heard Santos boasting about carrying a piece and decided to take him on.
In an ill-fated moment, Santos replied, he "had his thang" with him. "Use it then, pussy," somebody said back. "Let's see it. ... We all got weapons."
If the jury returns a guilty verdict, Núñez and Jett will almost certainly both go down, because there is no way to determine who plunged his knife into Lu Santos' heart — and under California law, it wouldn't matter anyway.
Last year, Núñez's attorney, Patton, floated the theory that a group of "six or seven" African-American kids brawling near Peterson Gym that night could be to blame. That claim fell apart after Garcia and Thomas spoke up.
Now, the defense is expected to claim that the victims were the aggressors and were carrying weapons — based upon the almost certainly untrue boast by Santos to the stranger Connor Henderson that was overheard by the bunch from Sacramento. The defense also may claim that at least one of Santos' friends had to have been carrying a knife, since Jett sustained a leg injury.
The defense may have one strong argument in its favor: video purportedly showing that Santos and Scheerer never ran from the scene in fear before Santos called for help from his friends. A second video taken from a different angle, however, shows Scheerer running away — from Jett and one or two other pursuers.
Attorney Eric Hintz, a family friend who years ago represented Jett on felony weapons charges but is no longer representing him, now asks, What if? "Had they stayed at the scene, had someone called the police ... who knows how it might have played out?"
Navid Sabahi says of Núñez and Jett: "They felt the need to bring a knife to this fight, and crossed a line they shouldn't have crossed." He says he thinks of Santos' slaying "every single day. Life is not the same. I try to do things to keep myself busy. Obviously it is tough with the trial coming up. It makes things a little harder. It is still very important that justice is served and to show that there is a lot of support, and people haven't forgotten."
Fred Santos, whose wife prefers not to talk about their loss, says he does not believe time can heal their wounds. "We will always wonder what it would be like if he had a wedding," he says of their only son, "and what his children would look like. We will never find out those kinds of things. When we see people having their wedding, or young parents with their children, it reminds us of our son — and what could have been."
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city