Five acquaintances of a teenager who was stabbed to death by a homeless man at a Campbell park are now charged in the teen’s murder.
Police have arrested five suspected gang members who are accused of violently attacking a 24-year-old homeless man at John D. Morgan Park last month, authorities said.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office charged the five suspects -- two are juveniles being charged as adults -- with murder after a homeless man, Todd Tharp, fearing for his life during an unprovoked beating, stabbed to death one member of the group, Campbell Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Gary Berg said.
All five suspects are affiliated with a local Sureno criminal street gang, according to Berg.
"We believe that the five suspects who were with the deceased 16-year-old were the ones who initiated the attack," Berg said.
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.
The defendants are: 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.
They have each been charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. Each charge alleges a gang enhancement.
Santa Clara Assistant Public Defender J.J. Kapp told NBC Bay Area that the public defender's office would represent only one of the defendants because all five of them had been charged with the same crime. The other defendants would be represented by the alternate public defender's office and an independent defense counsel, assuming that they haven't hired a private attorney.
The defendants were arraigned Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. If convicted, they face 15 years to life in prison.
Friends of the teen killed said they are outraged over the homicide charges against five of their schoolmates.
"They didn't murder him. Those are his friends," a friend who wished to remain anonymous said in an interview with NBC Bay Area. "Why would they want harm on him?"
Campbell police on March 16 began investigating the attack in John D. Morgan Park that led to the hospitalization of Tharp and the death of 16-year-old Ivan Diaz.
According to police, the group attacked Tharp, knocking him to the ground and kicking and punching him repeatedly on his head and upper body.
Police said that Tharp defended himself with a knife because he believed he was going to be seriously injured. He swung the knife once toward one of the attackers who was kicking him in the end, police said. Diaz was wounded in the altercation. The group fled the scene, taking Diaz to Valley Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.
On March 28, Campbell police with the help of the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team and the Los Gatos Police Department served search warrants at the five suspects' homes.
Police arrested all five suspects at that time and seized evidence.
Police are asking anyone with information regarding the incident to contact the Campbell Police Department Investigations Unit at 408-871-5190. Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP (7867).