Prison for 1 of 6 charged in melee death outside York City restaurant

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

One person so far is going to state prison for his role in the homicide of a man fatally shot during a melee in the parking lot of a York City restaurant.

Five others remain charged in relation to the Sept. 22 death of Jose Nuñez-Cruz, 24, of York Township.

Carlos Alberto Torres, 24, of West King Street, pleaded no contest Friday to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and was sentenced to three to six years in state prison, according to court records.

He was given 225 days' credit for the time he's already spent locked up. In exchange for his plea, charges including first- and third-degree murder were dismissed, court records state.

Eric Jole Dejesus, 25, Reynaldo Manuel Santana-Cruz, 23, and 22-year-old Jonathan Lee Romero, all of York City, remain in York County Prison awaiting trial, charged with first-degree murder and related offenses.

Romero, Dejesus and Santana-Cruz also are charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for the nonfatal shooting of a second man during the melee, police said — Alberto Illarza-Esponda, who was 30 at the time.

Six people are charged in connection with the Sept. 22, 2019, homicide of Jose Nunez-Cruz in York City.
Top row, left to right: Carlos Torres, Eric Dejesus, Reynaldo Santana-Cruz
Bottom row, left to right: Jonathan Lee Romero, Ashley Mettic Jones, Jalitza Santos

The two other co-defendants — Jalitza Santos, 28, and Ashley Mettic Jones, 24, both of York City — are awaiting trial on charges that include multiple counts of aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit that offense. They remain free on bail.

Nuñez-Cruz was 24 and lived in Dallastown, according to his obituary, which states he was a graduate of William Penn Senior High School and loved riding ATVs and motorcycles.

The allegations: He and Illarza-Esponda were shot about 2 a.m. Sept. 22 in the parking lot of 3rd Base Family Restaurant, 512 N. George St.

The victims were inside the restaurant when Santana-Cruz walked in and began staring at the men, according to York City Police. A short time later, Santos and Torres came in and also started staring at the victims, documents state.

A confrontation happened inside the restaurant, but both groups of people left the restaurant and spilled into the parking lot, after which employees locked the door, police said.

Jose A. Nunez-Cruz was fatally shot on Sept. 22, 2019, in York City.

Video surveillance of the parking lot showed that the altercation ended once the groups were outside but reignited for some reason, documents state.

"Santos can be heard yelling, 'My boy(s) are coming,' while making hand gestures ... in the form of a gun and several hand claps," court documents state.

It appeared the confrontation was ending again, until Santana-Cruz said something to Nuñez-Cruz and more words were exchanged, police said.

Several people involved got into fighting stances, at which point others — including Dejesus, Romero and Jones — joined the fight, documents state.

"It is clear from the video that the four individuals arrived to assist co-defendants Santana-Cruz and Santos in the assault on (the) victims," documents state.

One man is dead and another in critical condition following an early morning shooting in the 500 block of N. George Street, Sunday, September 22, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

'General melee': Dejesus sucker-punched Nuñez-Cruz in the face, at which point "all parties engage in a general melee," according to court documents.

During the brawl, Nuñez-Cruz was shot in the head and Illarza-Esponda was shot despite having his hands raised while he retreated, according to police.

He suffered at least one gunshot wound to the abdomen and was rushed to York Hospital in a private vehicle, police said. The injuries were life-threatening, police said at the time.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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