3 suspects plead not guilty in murder involving police officer's stolen gun

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)-- Three suspects arrested in a fatal shooting committed with a gun stolen from a police officer have been linked to a string of robberies and shootings, prosecutors said today in court.

Erick Garcia Pineda, 18, Jesus Perez-Araujo, 24, and Daniel Cruz, 18, all San Francisco residents, pleaded not guilty today to felony charges including murder in connection with the Aug. 15 fatal shooting of 23-year-old
Abel Enrique Esquivel Jr.

Prosecutors say Esquivel was shot around 2 a.m. near 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue in the course of a robbery.

Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan said today that the three men are accused of committing five robberies and three shootings, only one of which was fatal, between Aug. 13 and Aug. 15.

The three were ordered held without bail at the request of prosecutors.

The gun used to kill Esquivel was registered to a San Francisco police officer and was stolen from his personal vehicle on Aug. 12, according to police.

The circumstances of the theft remain under investigation, but the officer does not appear to have reported the gun missing prior to the shooting.

San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran on Wednesday issued a statement saying there were no visible signs of burglary and that the officer did not realize the vehicle had been broke
into or the gun stolen.

State law requires that handguns being transported in a vehicle must be unloaded and locked in the vehicle's trunk or in a locked container.

It is unclear whether the officer had secured the .38-caliber handgun. Prosecutors today declined to comment on whether the officer would be charged in connection with the loss of the gun, but said the case remained
under investigation.

Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, who is representing Perez-Araujo, said the officer should be held accountable if he failed to secure his firearm.

"Guns stolen from vehicles put everybody in danger and no one knows this better than police," Maloof said.

While Halloran described the shooting as gang-related, the charges faced by the three suspects do not currently include gang enhancements. The three have also not been charged with the burglary of the vehicle.