Police announced Thursday the arrests of two young men in connection with the killing last month of a Natomas High School football coach looking to give back to the community that raised him.
Police also shed more light on the circumstances surrounding the March 26 home-invasion robbery during which 26-year-old Salvador Heredia-Arriaga was shot: The suspects likely had been after marijuana or money from its sale when the holdup went wrong.
It is another violent crime in which marijuana has been found at the center – and it has law enforcement officers again sounding alarms about what many have argued is among the more harmless drugs to consume.
"You have to look at it as a commodity," said Sacramento Police Sgt. Norm Leong. "No matter how legalized it is … you're still going to have crimes related to marijuana."
Accused in Heredia-Arriaga's death are 20-year-old Maurice Reed Jr. of Union City and a 17-year-old boy who has not been identified because he is a juvenile. Both were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder and robbery, Leong said.
Detectives believe that Reed and the teen had targeted the apartment on River Plaza Drive in South Natomas because it was known for ongoing marijuana deals, Leong said.
Things turned deadly, though, when Heredia-Arriaga showed up to visit friends and startled the suspects, Leong said. He was the only one shot.
"The residents were confronted by the armed men and were cooperative right away. There was no surprise there," Leong said. "When Heredia-Arriaga walked in, it was a surprise. It was an element (the suspects) had not planned for."
It was the second fatal home-invasion robbery potentially involving marijuana in six months in the city of Sacramento.
In October, two men broke into a home on Maccan Court in Meadowview in south Sacramento and killed 24-year-old Michael Thames, leaving a woman and a child untouched.
Thames was growing medicinal marijuana in the home, though police are not sure whether that was the motivation for the robbery because no plants were taken.
But local law enforcement officers say similar but non-fatal home-invasion robberies – where intruders appear to be after pot or cash associated with it – occur with much greater frequency.
"Unequivocally, the vast majority (of home invasions) are weed rips," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.
He said the department's robbery detectives estimated that 50 to 75 percent of home-invasion robberies in the unincorporated county – there were 92 in 2009 – can be traced back to pot.
Leong said there have been 30 home invasions in the city so far this year. Six of them involved marijuana, and two others involved unspecified drugs, he said.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.