A felon who’s awaiting trial on a murder charge stemming from a 2011 Santa Ana vehicle-to-vehicle shooting pleaded not guilty to attempting to kill a sheriff’s deputy and attacking two others while in custody, court records obtained Monday show.
Emmanuel Vega, 36, entered his not-guilty plea Friday to attempted murder on a peace officer and assault with a weapon on a peace officer, both felonies, as well as two misdemeanor counts of battery on a peace officer.
Vega, who was indicted by a grand jury last Tuesday, is due back in court April 24 for a pretrial hearing in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Vega was arrested in December 2013 in connection with the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of 36-year-old Juan Manuel Diaz in the 1600 block of East Edinger Avenue.
Co-defendant Steve Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January 2014 and has been awaiting sentencing.
Vega is accused of opening fire from a Toyota 4Runner owned by this father into a blue van with Diaz behind the wheel, According to police testimony from his March 2015 preliminary hearing, Roberto Diaz, who was a passenger in the van, was also wounded but survived.
Moreno told police he was a passenger in the SUV. According to the preliminary hearing testimony, Vega picked him up and they drove to a park in Irvine looking for members of a local gang.
They didn’t see anyone from the particular gang they were looking for so they played some basketball before Vega went over to a handball court to resume the search, according to testimony. They were about to leave when they saw Juan and Roberto Diaz and decided to follow them, according to the police testimony.
Vega allegedly produced a gun during the ride, but Moreno declined to use it, so Vega opened fire on the victims, who were cousins of Moreno’s wife, police allege. It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting.
Vega is charged with murder with special circumstances allegations of shooting from a vehicle and murder by means of lying in wait. He also faces charges of possession of a gun by a felon and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancement allegations for discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury or death and attempted premeditated murder.
In the alleged attack on a deputy on Jan. 12, 2019, Vega is accused of using a metal shank. He is also accused of attacking another deputy and a sergeant, according to court records.