Three men in California are facing lengthy prison sentences after police said they attacked an Anaheim strip club with an AK-47 in a drive-by shooting on Halloween. Two of the men had been kicked out of the Sahara Theater club for refusing to wear masks inside the establishment, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Anaheim Police said more than 30 people were inside the strip club at the time of the shooting. Three victims were shot but luckily no one was killed.
The three men were identified as Edgar Nava-Ayala, Daniel Juvenal Ocampo and Juan Jose Acosta-Soto. All three were arrested on December 17 and were being held at the Orange County Jail on $5 million bail each, according to the district attorney.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nava-Ayala Is Accused of Firing at Least 15 Rounds Into the Strip Club
Investigators say the shooting at the Sahara Theater happened after the suspects were kicked out of the strip club for failing to abide by coronavirus safety regulations. The District Attorney’s office explained in a news release that Ocampo and Nava-Ayala had refused to wear face coverings and that club security escorted them out. The Washington Post reported that the men were asked multiple times to put on face coverings before they were kicked out of the club.
The district attorney did not mention whether Acosta-Soto had been wearing a mask but stated in the news release that he left the club along with Nava-Ayala and Ocampo. According to the Anaheim Police, the three suspects returned a short time later in a red Toyota Camry. Police say Acosta-Soto was driving. NBC Los Angeles reported the shooting happened around 1:30 a.m. and cited witnesses who recalled seeing the vehicle stop in front of the strip club.
Investigators say Nava-Ayala opened fire into the strip club with an AK-47 rifle. The district attorney says he fired at least 15 rounds into the establishment before the group drove away.
Three people were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. The district attorney said one victim had a shattered left scapula and another had to undergo surgery. NBC Los Angeles reported that a fourth victim was treated at the scene.
2 of the Men Are Facing Attempted Murder Charges
It took investigators more than a month to identify and locate the three suspects. The Anaheim Police announced the three suspects, all of whom lived within city limits, were arrested on December 17. The department shared a photo of the AK-47 rifle that officers seized during the arrest. The weapon was found hidden underneath a mattress. Police did not specify which home the weapon was found in or whether it was a legal firearm.
According to the Orange County District Attorney, Nava-Ayala and Ocampo are facing more severe charges than Acosta-Soto. Both Nava-Ayala and Ocampo face the following charges:
- 3 felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation
- 3 felony counts of assault with an assault weapon
- 1 felony count of shooting into an occupied building
Nava-Ayala also faces “seven felony enhancements of personal use of an assault weapon and three felony enhancements of causing great bodily injury.” Ocampo also faces seven felony enhancements but for “supplying a firearm for the commission of a felony.”
If convicted on all charges, Nava-Ayala could face up to 82 years to life in prison. Ocampo faces a maximum sentence of 21 years behind bars.
Acosta-Soto, meanwhile, could spend more than 17 years in prison if convicted on “three felony counts of assault with an assault weapon and one felony count of shooting into an occupied building.”
All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the district attorney.
The Strip Club Had Been Allowed to Operate If Food Was Served
2 men shot up a California strip club with an AK-47 after refusing to wear masks, authorities say. Now they face life in prison. https://t.co/XApLsl1FyJ
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 22, 2020
California has implemented some of the most severe restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom issued a new regional stay-at-home order on December 3 that prohibited state residents from gathering with anyone who does not live with them. Indoor dining at restaurants has also been temporarily banned.
But back in October, the rules were a bit laxer and the regulations concerning strip clubs were more complicated. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on October 13, bars and venues that offered live entertainment were ordered to shut down. But establishments that sold food were permitted to stay open because they could be classified as restaurants. The newspaper added that the regulations meant strip club dancers were not allowed to perform on stage or give lap dances but it was unclear whether they could serve food while nude.
NBC Los Angeles reported at the time of the Sahara Theater shooting that the strip club was not supposed to be open. But Sgt. Shane Carringer of the Anaheim Police Department told the Los Angeles Times he believed the club may have been legally operating if it was also serving food.