Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 3:14 am | Overcast 64º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara Police, Family Talk About Murder Cold-Case Arrest

Relatives feel a sense of closure after a suspect is nabbed in the 1988 slaying of Bernardino Santos-Sierra

Almost 25 years after Bernardino Santos-Sierra was gunned down in the driveway of an Eastside home, his family gathered Thursday with Santa Barbara police officials to announce they believe his killer has finally been found.

Bernardino Santos-Sierra, 24, of Santa Barbara was gunned down in 1988. Mexican authorities recently arrested the man suspected of killing him. (Contributed photo)
Bernardino Santos-Sierra, 24, of Santa Barbara was gunned down in 1988. Mexican authorities recently arrested the man suspected of killing him. (Contributed photo)

The motives surrounding the killing were conflicting at the time, and have become more murky over the quarter-century since.

What is known is that on the evening of Sept. 30, 1988, Santos-Sierra and several friends drove past the 1300 block of Punta Gorda Street, and began talking to several people outside an Eastside home.

About 10 minutes later, witnesses said Pedro Alonso Bravo emerged from the home and gunned down Sierra, 24, with multiple shots, allegedly without provocation.

Conflicting stories emerged from the witnesses about whether there was bad blood between the victim and the suspect, who worked together at a Santa Barbara car wash, and were from the same town in Oaxaca, Mexico.

A warrant charging Bravo with homicide was obtained by Santa Barbara police, but he fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution the same year, Police Chief Cam Sanchez told reporters.

Police announced earlier this week that Bravo has been arrested by Mexican officials, news that Santos-Sierra’s family greeted with relief.

“We never expected that he would be caught,” Gabino Santos-Sierra, the victim’s brother, told Noozhawk through a translator.

Several family members were at Thursday’s press conference, and stood holding photos of Sierra while Sanchez spoke.

Another brother, Apolonio Santos-Sierra, said that his brother was born in Mexico, had come to Santa Barbara in 1986, and was friendly to everyone. Knowing that Bravo is in custody now gives his family a sense of closure.

“We feel good that justice will be served,” he said.

Sanchez called Thursday a “bittersweet day,” and reminded the public that just because a case has long been without new leads, “it’s not forgotten.”

Sanchez worked to establish the department’s cold-case unit after he first began as chief, and assigned two detectives to the case. Since then, several detectives have been instrumental on the case, most recently Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte and Det. Crystal Bedolla.

Pedro Alonso Bravo
Pedro Alonso Bravo

The pair continued communication with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Procuraduria General de la Republica, or PGR, which oversees the legal system in Mexico.

The PGR asked for SBPD’s help in locating key witnesses so they could be re-interviewed, and an arrest warrant for Bravo could be issued in Mexico.

Officials from the PGR notified the SBPD that Bravo had been taken into custody on March 8 in Mexico City, where he remains today.

Duarte said he wasn’t sure exactly how PGR officials found Bravo.

“Maybe he applied for some sort of identification or other process that the government was privy to,” he said.  “The specifics we don’t know.”

Duarte was alerted that the PGR had a specific location on Bravo, and that he was later arrested.

According to Mexican law, Mexican citizens who commit crimes in foreign territories must be prosecuted in Mexico, so Bravo will go before a judge and serve any time in that country.

Sanchez said he spoke with Santos-Sierra’s parents, who were shocked the case was still a priority with the department after all this time, and grateful that Bravo had been found.

The case sends a message, Sanchez said, that “we’re going to pull no punches and spare no resource to put away people who commit murder in our community.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >