Brandon Gil and a friend attacked a member of their own gang outside a downtown Watsonville sports bar, starting a knife fight that killed Gil and left both other men seriously injured, Watsonville police said at a press conference Thursday.
"This was a beef within the gang that was dealt with out in public," Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said.
The man who killed Gil, Frank Garcia, will not be arrested and charged in connection with his death, Solano said.
"This case is a case of self defense," the chief said.
The shocking announcement marked the conclusion of the .
According to police, Gil and Ricardo Flores were inside El Miramar sports bar the night of March 31 when the spotted Garcia. All three belong to the same Norteño street gang, Solano said.
Gil and Flores blamed Garcia for an earlier assault on another, unnamed member of the gang. When Garcia stepped out of the bar, Gil and Flores followed and initiated the fight by confronting Garcia, police said.
It escalated quickly. Gil attacked Garcia with a knife, Solano said.
Garcia defended himself by stabbing Gil in the upper body with a knife he had armed himself with, police reported. Flores came to Gil's defense and hit Garcia in the head with a beer bottle. Garcia fought back by stabbing Flores, according to police.
"It happened very quick," Solano said. "It was only a matter of seconds."
All three men fled. Gil collapsed a couple blocks away. Flores was taken to the hospital. Garcia did not immediately seek medical attention for his injuries—a stab wound to the upper torso and a blow to the head.
Police found several folding knives at the scene, according to police Lt. David McCartney. They believe all three men were armed, though Flores has never cooperated with police and talked about the night.
McCartney called the deadly night "inter-gang retaliation."
For all of Patch's coverage of Gil's death, click HERE.
Solano said police met with Gil's family before the press conference Thursday to break the news to them. His family has cooperated with the investigation and though saddened by the development, was not surprised, the chief said.
"They're obviously are still very sad," Solano said. "They're still going through a huge loss. ... I think they understood and acknowledged that their son was involved in risky behavior."
Gil has been identified as a gang member by police since he was a teenager and has a violent criminal history as a juvenile, McCartney said.
Solano said Gil's arrests included "incidents of violence on school grounds... One was actually pretty serious, I think."
Garcia, the man police believe inflicted the deadly injury on Gil, cooperated with police during the investigation.
Legally, using deadly force against another person for self defense requires that the person defending himself be in eminent danger of death and fear for his life. Police said that, in their consultations with the District Attorney's Office, that Garcia did rightfully fear for his life.
Garcia has since left town, Solano said.
After Gil died, friends and family came together in force to raise money for funeral expenses and remember the young man, who was a fourth-generation Watsonville resident. . Gil had recently started a new job at an auto shop and his parents told police he was trying to change his life, Solano said.
A memorial of candles and flowers for Gil still stands on the sidewalk where he collapsed, at East Lake Avenue and Brennan Street.
"It's just, again, a very unfortunate case all around," the chief said.