pajaro river watsonville police homicide investigation
Watsonville Police study an area in the Pajaro River bed Sunday where a man was shot and killed. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Watsonville Police are investigating a fatal shooting in the Pajaro riverbed.

Ashley Keehn, spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, said the victim has been identified as John Michael Peña, 41.

Michelle Pulido, spokeswoman for Watsonville Police, said detectives were called to the scene of a homicide in the Pajaro River behind River Park, which is on East Front Street.

At about noon on Sunday, officers found Peña with at least one gunshot wound.

By 4pm Sunday, detectives continued to comb the riverbed for evidence along the river benchlands that were scattered with several dozen tents and other makeshift dwellings commonly occupied by homeless people.

The incident marks the second homicide of the year. On Jan. 22 Armando Saldana was gunned down in an apartment complex on the 200 block of Sunnyhills Drive. 

The suspect, 29-year-old Felipe Jimenez, was tracked down by detectives in San Jose and arrested on murder charges, Pulido said.

Detectives are working to gather information and evidence in the Pajaro River incident. Little other information was available.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 471.1151.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


  1. I will again ask that if you saw, heard or know anything about this , call the WPD at 471-1151 and report it. you are doing the community a favor. this culprit must be brought to justice.

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  2. Steve
    I am going to get you a bullet proof vest for Christmas. It looks like you’re living in the hood?
    First floods then snow now high crime? I have to return to Watsonville in a March to collect rent I hope they catch this criminal before then!

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