el torero bar pajaro
A Monterey County Sheriff's Deputy stands outside the El Torero Restaurant and Bar where four people were shot Nov. 21. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/ The Pajaronian

The 47-year-old man suspected of killing two people and injuring others early in the morning on Nov. 21 at a Pajaro bar was possibly acting in self-defense and may not face murder charges, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

Sergio Ramos Carranza turned himself in the same night as the shooting to Watsonville Police Department. 

But according to Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni, Carranza was returning fire after another man—36-year-old Gerardo Hernandez Herrera—entered El Torero Restaurant and Bar, 540 Salinas Road, just after 1am armed with a firearm and confronted Carranza.

Carranza shot and killed Hernandez Herrera in a matter of seconds, and another bullet mortally wounded Carolina Martinez, 36, of San Jose. Three other people were struck by gunfire.

Under state law, if a person fires in self-defense and accidentally kills or injures a bystander, the person who initiated the gunfire is responsible for all injuries or deaths that result, Pacioni said.

Deputies released two photos of Carranza, who lives in Watsonville, a description of his vehicle and its license plate number around 4pm Nov. 21. Four hours later, at 8:07pm, Carranza was in custody for two counts of homicide.

Carranza was arraigned on a felony charge of carrying a loaded firearm in public. 

On Tuesday he pled not guilty and his bail was set at $30,000. He was not released from custody.

The investigation and review of the shooting is ongoing.

The case is scheduled for a setting of a preliminary hearing on Dec. 12 in Monterey County Superior Court.

Martinez’s sister Sonia Martinez said through a Spanish interpreter that her parents are having difficulties trying to fly from their home in Bogota, Colombia, to the U.S. for funeral arrangements.

Carolina Martinez
Carolina Martinez was shot and killed on Nov. 21 in Pajaro. Contributed photo

“I am very sad for the loss of my sister and that my family is having a hard time trying to get together,” she said. “It is very difficult—the immigration process to come here. Our family is very sad for Carolina. She gave so much moral support to our family. She had two girls, 15 and 19. She was always happy, and had a great sense of humor and was always very organized.”

The Sheriff’s Office believes no further suspects are outstanding.

El Torero is situated in a two-story building, with a string of apartments across the second floor, that stands across Salinas Road from the Pajaro railroad yard.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to seek the public’s assistance. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective C. Zarate at 755.3809 or Detective Sgt. Kennedy at 755.3773.

The California Highway Patrol and Watsonville Police assisted in the investigation.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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