HAYWARD, Calif. (KRON) — Eliyanah Crisostomo never had a chance to open her Easter basket. The 5-year-old girl was riding in her family’s car on Interstate-880 in Fremont when she was fatally shot by Sureño gang members the night before Easter, according to investigators.
On Tuesday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol held a news conference to release more details about the shooting that killed Eliyanah, as well as discuss a second shooting that occurred in Fremont just 20 minutes before the girl was shot.
Investigators said they pieced together evidence indicating that the two April 8 shootings were carried out by the same group of gang members.
CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ezery Beauchamp said Tuesday, “This is something that no father, no mother, should ever have to deal with. It’s utterly disgusting they would do something of this nature to such a beautiful young girl.”
Eliyanah and her family were on their way to a Milpitas restaurant to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday at 6:45 p.m. when another car pulled alongside their car. A gunman opened fire and one bullet pierced through Eliyanah’s heart, prosecutors said.
Three suspects, Humberto Anaya, Emmanuel Sarango, and Kristo Ayala, are in custody and charged with murder. The men were nabbed in Santa Cruz County by police officers who spotted the suspect vehicle. Anaya, 29, and Sarango, 27, are both Fremont residents. Ayala, 25, lives in Pleasanton.
Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price said the murder suspects are members of a Fremont Sureño gang who mistakenly believed the Crisostomo family’s car was a rival gang car. Prosecutors wrote, “They flashed gang symbols and purposefully fired within their intended target, the car filled with Eliyanah and five other people.”
Prosecutors also charged Anaya, Sarango, and Ayala with felony assault for the second shooting on Fremont Boulevard, which occurred 20 minutes before they allegedly killed Eliyanah.
The District Attorney’s Office stated, “The victim was walking on Fremont Boulevard when the suspect vehicle, a red Honda Accord, drove by. One of the occupants commented about the red clothing the victim was wearing. Two suspects exited the car, and one shot at the victim as he ran away. The victim was not injured.”
Fremont Police Department Chief Sean Washington said, “These are bad people. I am grateful they are no longer in our community causing harm.”
Price said, “There is no reason young children should die on our Bay Area freeways. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable. My heart goes out to Eliyanah’s family.”
A close friend of Eliyanah’s mother said the family is grieving the sudden loss of their daughter. “It went from a happy birthday dinner event to their family losing their five-year-old daughter,” the friend told KRON4.
Eliyanah was sitting next to her 7-year-old brother when she was shot. “His Easter basket is still sitting on the kitchen counter. He told his mom ‘I’m not opening that mom, because my sister isn’t here to open that with me,'” the friend said.
“Eliyanah was a fun-loving little girl who loved life. (She was) close with her three siblings, especially her brother. Both were so excited for Easter before the family was torn to pieces by this tragic event. Eliyanah would have been 6 on the 21st of April,” family friends wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Court documents obtained by KRON4 indicate that Anaya turned on Ayala and Sarango. During a jailhouse interview with detectives, Anaya told the CHP that the group “believed the driver of the Yukon was a Norteno, so they started to put up gang signs. Anaya brandished a firearm at the victim vehicle and Ayala then shot three rounds from his pistol, a grey and black Glock 45 caliber with an extended magazine. Anaya stated that the gun he had on him was a 9mm and he knew the round that killed the five-year-old was a 45 caliber,” CHP Detective Taylor Babock wrote in court documents.
Anaya told detectives that Ayala was the driver, Sarango was the front seat passenger, and Anaya was riding in the backseat, Babock wrote. Eliyanah’s father was driving their family vehicle with her grandmother, mother, and young siblings as passengers, according to court documents.
Timeline of April 8 Fremont shootings
CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ezery Beauchamp and Fremont Police Department Chief Sean Washington gave the following timeline of the two April 8 shootings:
April 8, 6:25 p.m. – A man was walking on Fremont Boulevard when a red Honda Accord stopped next to him. The passenger and driver got out of Honda and the driver pulled a gun out of his waistband. “The victim ran into the neighborhood and heard three shots behind him. Two private security cameras captured the shooting on camera and police identified the car’s license plate as 8UMT360. Police entered the license plate into a database and asked Bay Area law enforcement agencies to be on high alert for the car.
April 8, 6:45 p.m. – Eliyanah and five of her family members were traveling on I-880 in Fremont when the red Honda Accord pulled alongside Eliyanah’s family’s car. A gunman fired multiple rounds. The horrified family spotted a CHP officer on the side of I-880 and approached the officer for help. “They handed her to the CHP officer. He did everything he could to help,” Beauchamp said.
April 8, 9:32 p.m. – Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley police officers spotted the red Honda Accord with a matching license plate traveling in Santa Cruz.
The Santa Cruz Police Department wrote, “Officer Caposio spotted a vehicle near Ocean Street and Water Street associated with possibly two shootings that occurred earlier in Fremont. One shooting involved the death of a child. Our patrol officer requested backup, followed the vehicle onto Highway 17, and initiated a car stop when other patrol cars were nearby. The vehicle did not yield, and a pursuit was initiated. During the pursuit on Highway 17, officers observed the vehicle’s occupants discarding a firearm from the car.”
The car eventually stopped. Three men inside the car were taken into custody and later identified as Anaya, Sarango, and Ayala. They were booked into Santa Rita Jail with no bail.
April 10 – Using GPS tracking data from the Honda, detectives retraced the Honda’s path from Fremont to Santa Cruz. Detectives found a Glock style 45 caliber firearm along Highway 17.
April 11 – Anaya requested to be placed in protective custody at Santa Rita Jail and asked to speak with investigators. Detective Babcock interviewed Anaya. “Anaya related that the Yukon had ben targeted only because he, Ayala, and Sarango are Surenos and they believed the driver of the victim vehicle was a Norteno,” court documents state.
April 14 – District Attorney Price announced her prosecutors filed murder charges against all three men. The suspected killers were also charged with shooting into an occupied vehicle, and assault with a firearm.
April 18 – Fremont Police Captain Eric Tang told reporters, “The case is gang related (because) the suspects believe the victims were gang related.” Beauchamp added that the 5-year-old girl and her family “were just innocent victims.”
So far, the District Attorney’s Office has not added gang enhancements to the charges filed against Anaya, Sarango, and Ayala. Price said her office has not ruled out adding gang enhancements in the future. “We are working to closely evaluate the evidence,” she told reporters. If convicted of the charges currently filed against them, Anaya, Sarango, and Ayala will face 42 years to life in prison, according to Price.
April 20 – The three defendants are due in court and expected to enter pleas.