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21-year-old pleads guilty to accessory in 2020 Cathedral City murder

Joel Sanchez after his arrest in Tijuana
Joel Sanchez after his arrest in Tijuana

A 21-year-old reputed gang member who helped a fellow gang member elude capture after the man allegedly gunned down a Cathedral City resident in 2020 pleaded guilty today to three felony charges and two misdemeanor counts.

Joel Sanchez of Cathedral City pleaded guilty to felony charges of being an accessory after the fact, carrying a loaded firearm, and possessing a short-barreled rifle or shotgun, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession of controlled substances and possessing more than 28.5 grams of marijuana.   

He was set to be sentenced Jan. 26 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.   

Sanchez is one of four men thought to be members of the same criminal street gang arrested in connection with two shootings reported a few hours apart in Cathedral City, including one on March 23, 2020, that left 43-year-old Ruben Hernandez dead.

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Ruben Hernandez

Hernandez's 11-year-old daughter was also wounded in the attack, but survived, according to the Cathedral City Police Department.

"My dad was a good man. He was every other immigrant father. He worked every day. He had no enemies," Hernandez's older daughter told News Channel 3 in March 2020.

Sanchez helped 23-year-old Gabriel Hernandez of Indio -- one of two men charged with murder in Ruben Hernandez's killing -- avoid capture by helping him hide in Mexico, according to court papers.

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Gabriel Hernandez

He was taken into custody in April 2020 in Tijuana, Mexico, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. He was extradited and booked into Blythe Jail, but was subsequently released on a $500,000 bail bond.   

Gabriel Hernandez remains on the lam.   

The other suspect -- 26-year-old Jose Sanchez-Casas -- who police say is Sanchez's brother -- was also charged with attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of possession for sale and possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana.

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Jose Sanchez-Casas

Ethan Bravo, 22, of Cathedral City, was charged with three felony counts, one of murder and two of possessing controlled substances for sale.

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Ethan Bravo

Both Sanchez-Casas and Bravo remain in custody and will return to the Larson Justice Center in Indio Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing.   

According to Cathedral City police, at about 6:40 p.m. March 23, 2020, it's alleged that Gabriel Hernandez approached the front door of a house in the 29000 block of Avenida La Vista and began firing as Ruben Hernandez stood in the doorway and his daughter stood nearby. Hernandez died at the scene, and
paramedics took his wounded daughter to a hospital.

Bullets holes on the front door of Hernandez's home (March 2020)

Ruben Hernandez was "not involved in criminal activity," according to police. A motive in the shooting was not provided.   

A second shooting was reported in the early morning hours of March 24, 2020, in the 33300 block of Wishing Well Trail, police said. Several shots were fired at a home with people inside about 2 a.m., but nobody was injured.   

The investigation into that shooting yielded "witnesses and physical evidence" that connected back to the first shooting, which occurred less than three miles away, police said.

Anybody with information related to Gabriel Hernandez's whereabouts was urged to call the Cathedral City Police Department at 760-770-0300.

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Article Topic Follows: Crime

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