Suspect in deadly parking lot melee pleads guilty

Brandon Addeo
York Dispatch
Reynaldo Santana-Cruz

A York City man pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in a fatal shooting following a parking lot melee in 2019. 

Reynaldo Manuel Santana-Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony aggravated assault, according to his York County Court of Common Pleas docket. Prosecutors dismissed other felony charges, including first-degree murder, conspiracy and attempted murder. 

A presentencing investigation was ordered by Judge Craig T. Trebilcock, who also set Santana-Cruz's sentencing date for Sept. 16. 

The shooting: Santana-Cruz's charges relate to a melee in York City that led to two men being shot — one fatally. 

The incident occurred on Sept. 22, 2019, in the 500 block of North George Street.  

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

A confrontation inside a North George Street restaurant continued into the parking lot and turned into a brawl, and someone pulled out a handgun and fatally shot Jose Nuñez-Cruz, of Dallastown. He was 24.  

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

Another man, Alberto Illarza-Esponda, was retreating from the shooter when they turned their weapon on him, striking Illarza-Esponda in the abdomen. Illarza-Esponda, who was 30 at the time of the shooting, was driven to a hospital in a private vehicle. 

All told, Santana-Cruz and five other York City residents were charged in the incident: Carlos Alberto Torres, 25, Eric Jole Dejesus, 26; Jonathan Lee Romero, 23; Jalitza Santos, 29; and Ashley Mettic Jones, 25. 

To date, law enforcement hasn't specified who they believe fired the shots. 

Three of those charged have already been sentenced. 

In June 2020, Torres pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and was sentenced to three to six years in state prison, according to court records. In December, Dejesus and Romero pleaded guilty to first-degree felony conspiracy to commit aggravated assault; Romero was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison, and Dejesus received a prison term of five to 10 years. 

Both Santos and Jones have pretrial conferences scheduled for Aug. 13, court records state. Both were previously released from jail on bail.