Police have made three arrests for the 2010 killing of 17-year-old Justice Afoa, who was stabbed on a city sidewalk on an afternoon almost exactly two years ago, according to Newark Police Cmdr. Michael Carroll.
The arrests were a result of confessions made by two of the suspects, Carroll said.
The individuals were arrested Monday and were identified as:
- Daniela Guzman, 19, of Newark
- Daniel Howard, 31, of Fremont
- Rafael Tovar, 32, of Newark
All three are facing one count of murder, Carroll said and are being held at Santa Rita Jail on no bail.
Justice was prounced dead at the scene, shortly after police responded to Cedar Boulevard at Birch Street around 3:40 p.m. Dec. 15, 2010 and found the high school senior bleeding of apparent stab wounds.
Carroll said police have confirmed that the stabbing was not a random crime.
"It was a targeted crime. They targeted him and went after him," Carroll said.
Authorities believe the stabbing death is linked to a "fist fight" that occurred at the Tovar home before the teen was stabbed, Carroll said. In early investigations, police said they were analyzing whether Justice's stabbing death was linked to a previous fight but Carroll said that is not the case.
Police said immediately after Justice’s stabbing that witnesses reported seeing at least two male suspects in hooded sweatshirts running from the area. But no one was ever arrested until this week – a timeline that left many questions unanswered and hundreds of people in mourning.
For more than a year, a sign with Justice’s name, photographs and candles remained at the stabbing scene to memorialize the boy who was known as a friendly, dependable teenager and talented defensive lineman on the Newark Memorial High School varsity football team. When he was killed, Afoa was enrolled at Bridgepoint Continuation High School. The teen previously resided in East Palo Alto and attended Carlmont High School.
Newark Memorial Athletic Director Rich Swift has said that one of Justice’s greatest attributes was his positive attitude.
"He was a good guy," Swift told Newark Patch in 2010. "If you were around him, you just felt better. He was positive, happy-go-lucky and playful."
To mark the one-year anniversary of his death, more than 100 people gathered on Dec. 15, 2011 to remember Justice’s life, and family members expressed gratitude for the community’s support.
“Thanks for the support for the entire year,” said Justice’s mother Suvania Afoa last year. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, and my kids, and my family.”
With word spreading about the arrests, several who knew Justice’s story have conveyed relief for his family and loved ones through social media platforms.
Twitter user 2cupsofSOUL wrote, “That feeling when justice has been served! justice afoa, we can allllll rest better knowing your death didn't go in vain.”
“THE DAY HAS FINALLY COME.. JUSTICE FOR JUSTICE AFOA!!!!!,” wrote Twitter user weNeedJUSTICE24.
And Twitter user kalialenai wrote, “I'm so happy for the Afoa family, finally after 2 years justice has been served."
Carroll said authorities are "extremely happy" to make arrests in this case.
"We've been working on it for the last two years. It's not that we didn't know. The problem we were struggling with was proving it," Carroll said. "We're very greatful for the support we've gotten from the community. ...Our detective division did a really great job. This was a very difficult case."
Guzman and Howard are scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Hayward Hall of Justice, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office online database.
For related articles about Justice Afoa, visit Newark Patch’s The Killing of Justice Afoa topic page.