Four teens charged with murdering gardener

September 13, 2011 8:23:19 PM PDT
A police tip and surveillance video gave Oakland police the break they needed in the murder of a neighborhood gardener. Police say four teenagers killed 42-year-old Antonio Torres over two small possessions.

Torres was working in the front yard of an Oakland home when he was robbed and shot in May.

"Three of them have been charged as juveniles and one adult," Oakland Police Sgt. Mike Gantt said.

The four have been charged with Torres' murder. He was shot and killed May 20 in the middle of the day. Torres was a gardener who was working in the front yard of a home on the 1600 block of 34th Avenue. Police say the four young men confronted him.

"I believe Mr. Torres was targeted while he was, while he was doing the gardening work, the suspects said they saw he had on a gold chain as well as an iPod," Gantt said.

Surveillance video gathered from homes along 34th Avenue showed four young men running away from the yard. More video showed them walking toward Foothill Boulevard.

Then last month, investigators got a big break.

"We had gotten a tip from a citizen informant who advised they had obtained information on one of the subjects, who was heard bragging about shooting Mr. Torres," Gantt said.

Police arrested a juvenile suspect who implicated three others. Investigators say all confessed.

Police are now advising pedestrians not to flash their gold.

"We have alerted the community about our concern about a pattern we've seen over the last six months or so regarding gold chains being taken from individuals," Oakland Police Asst. Chief Howard Jordan said.

Bryan Walker owns the Oakland Silver and Gold Store and deals in precious metals. He says the skyrocketing price of gold and silver has created an underground market.

"The check cashing places now advertise that they buy gold; Craigslist is inundated with people that list that they do those sorts of thing; you get fly by night people who go to the swap meets and purchase metals," Walker said.

The teens arrested include a 15, 16, 17 and 19-year-old. Investigators are not releasing their names.

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