One teen will not be charged in San Jose Safeway murder, other held in Utah

A teen accused of shooting and killing a Safeway employee in San Jose was arrested. Initially a second teen was also arrested, but later released after prosecutors found that there was not enough evidence to charge him.

Tevita Tuakalau, 18, of Utah was taken into custody following the June 5 death of Manuel Huizar Cornejo, killed in the 1500 block of Hamilton Avenue, which is in the Willow Glen neighborhood.

KTVU is not naming the second person who was arrested as he has not been charged with a crime.

A representative for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said they do "not have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he participated in the shooting."

Tuakalau was taken into custody on Aug. 11 in Salt Lake City and is in custody there awaiting extradition, where he will face homicide charges, police said.

"I feel like a little relief, a little happy because, you know, justice came in. Sooner or later it came in," said Guillermo Huizar Corneous, the victim's eldest brother.

Huizar Cornejo said he wants the suspected shooter, Tukalau, to stay behind bars.

"It is not going to bring my brother back you know, it is no reason to celebrate, but at the same time there has been a lot of relief. It is not going to bring my brother back but I think we are going to be able to sleep a little bit better," Huizar Cornejo said. 

Police have not revealed an official motive, though sources said it was likely linked to a robbery gone bad.

Sources with knowledge of the crime told KTVU at the time that someone was in the alcohol section stealing liquor. 

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The suspect got into a fight with Cornejo, and shot him.

A Safeway worker who didn't want to be identified knew Cornejo and described him as a "lovely" young man, who worked the night crew. 

The family held a vigil outside the store for 21 days from the time Manuel was killed to the time he was laid to rest. The family says it was heartened by the support from regular customers to the store as well as the local community.

"I think that was one of the biggest things to help us to deal with the pain and have it be a little less painful. I don’t have words to thank all the community. Even last (Thursday) night they were dropping by Safeway and saying ‘hey, we got him," Huizar Cornejo said. 

A Safeway employee says workers are told not to confront thieves, a common practice in the retail industry.

Cornejo was San Jose's 14th homicide of 2022. 

KTVU reporters Mark Sayre and Greg Liggins contributed to this report.