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Lompoc man pleads not guilty to shooting death of Army soldier
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Lompoc man pleads not guilty to shooting death of Army soldier

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A Lompoc man on Thursday pleaded not guilty to felony charges related to the gang-related shooting death of a U.S. Army soldier in September 2019, following at least two delayed appearances due to quarantine.  

Walter Morales, 26, was charged with first-degree murder and four enhancements, which he denied, including using a firearm to commit great bodily injury and committing the alleged crime for the benefit of a street gang. 

Morales appeared via video conference from the Santa Barbara County Jail to enter his plea due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to Kathleen Gadalla, a Santa Ana-based attorney for Richie Litigation, who represents him.

Morales' arraignment was initially delayed because he could not make an appearance due to being placed in quarantine for unspecified medical reasons. 

Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca set Morales' preliminary hearing for 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 in Dept. 1 of Lompoc Superior Court. No bail amount was set for Morales. 

Morales was arrested in the 1500 block of South Thornburg Street shortly after 6:30 p.m. July 20 following a seven-hour standoff with Santa Maria Police and Santa Barbara County sheriff's officers, including SWAT team members. 

He is suspected in the death of Marlon Brumfield, 22, a U.S. Army solider who was home on leave from Germany when he was shot and killed on Sept. 8, 2019, near the intersection of North A Street and East Ocean Avenue in Lompoc, according to police. 

Morales allegedly fled to Mexico after the shooting and was on the run for nearly a year before he was spotted in Lompoc in connection to two separate shooting incidents on July 11, according to Lompoc Police. 

A second suspect, 25-year-old Francisco Gutierrez-Ortega, turned himself in to police days after Brumfield's death and was also charged with murder and a special allegation of street terrorism. 

Gutierrez-Ortega pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 in Dept. 1 of Lompoc Superior Court.

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A couple dozen Lompoc residents participated in a “Peace Rally” on Tuesday night in the courtyard outside City Hall. The aim of the event, which began around the same time as that night’s City Council meeting, was to send a message to city leaders that community members are fed up with the ongoing violent crime, and it also served as a public show of support for the Lompoc Police Department.

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