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Murder charges dropped in Menlo Park drive-by shooting case

 

The case of East Palo Alto resident Eric Barragan, who had been in San Mateo County jail for more than 10 months on charges of attempted murder in Menlo Park, has been dropped for a lack of evidence, according to prosecutors with the District Attorney's Office.

In charging Mr. Barragan, 23, over a series of drive-by shootings in East Palo Alto and the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park in October 2013, prosecutors were relying on the testimony of a witness who changed his story when the case finally got before a judge at a preliminary hearing on Sept. 10, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

"We decided not to pursue a case (without) a credible witness," Ms. Guidotti said.

Chris Morales, Mr. Barragan's defense attorney, said he cross-examined the witness at the preliminary hearing. "The case relied on testimony of a witness that was very untruthful," he said. "He compromised his own integrity on the stand."

In November 2014, in connection with four drive-by shootings, Menlo Park police made three arrests: Mr. Barragan and two youths. Mr. Barragan was allegedly driving the vehicle from which the shootings occurred, prosecutors said.

As the case went forward over the 10 months that Mr. Barragan was in jail on a bail of $3.5 million, several preliminary hearings had been scheduled, but most were continued to a later date, which added delays, Ms. Guidotti said.

Asked about the outcome of this case and Mr. Barragan's stay in jail only to have the case dropped, Ms. Guidotti said prosecutors "reacted fairly swiftly" once they reached a decision not to prosecute. "It's unfortunate, but I think relying upon what we were relying upon, we had reason to charge him with a crime," she said.

Mr. Barragan's record will continue to note his arrest in this case, but "he's going to learn from this and move on with his life and get his education," Mr. Morales said. "He's a very bright person. ... He'll make some new friends, possibly relocate to a new area and get a fresh start."

Correction: The drive-by shootings in this case date from October 2013, not from late 2014 as originally reported.

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