MODESTO — Robbery of a cell phone allegedly is what prompted three teenagers to attack and stab to death an 18-year-old in an east Modesto park in January.
On the evening of Jan. 29, three men approached Tylor Crippen and his girlfriend near Creekwood Drive and Ardia Avenue and asked for cigarettes; the victims replied that they didn't smoke. That's when one of the suspects brandished a pocketknife and the other lifted his jacket to reveal a handgun in his waistband, according to a search warrant.
One of the suspects punched Crippen in the back, prompting him to run down the street and into Creekwood Park, where he was attacked by the suspects and stabbed multiple times in the torso.
According to the warrant, Crippen's girlfriend heard him "scream for help and cry out her name in the darkness of the park."
Modesto police arrested Jacob Segura, 18, Juan Garcia, 17, and Taylor Koplen, 16, on suspicion of murder.
Segura was spotted by an officer at the corner of Creekwood and Claus Road shortly after the assault. He ran when he saw the officer, but after a short chase, the officer caught up with and apprehended him across the street at the Johansen High School football field.
Segura had fresh scrapes on his hands and what appeared to be dried blood on one hand, according to the search warrant.
During an interview later in the evening, Segura told detectives he was with Garcia and Koplen when Kop-len saw two people walking on the other side of the park with what appeared to be a cell phone. Koplen suggested they rob them, according to the warrant.
Segura told police that he and his co-defendants chased Crippen when he ran and that Koplen stabbed Crippen while he and Garcia were "reaching and grabbing" at him.
Early the next day, detectives went to Koplen's home in the 1400 block of Brannon Avenue, northeast of Sunrise and Orangeburg avenues, and arrested him.
Officers searched Kop-len's home and found a pair of white shoes in his bedroom with what appeared to be dried blood on them.
Garcia was arrested at his home in the 2800 block of Quarry Drive, southwest of Briggsmore and Lakewood avenues, about a half-hour after Koplen.
Detectives learned that Koplen and Garcia had been picked up near Creekwood Park and driven home by Koplen's cousin, according to the warrant.
All three suspects are documented gang members, according to police.
They have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of attempted robbery, along with enhancements for committing a crime for the benefit of the Norteño street gang. They are scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial hearing March 22.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.
Video is at scenes of Creekwood Park and Johansen High