Police investigate shooting death of local teen; 3 suspects arrested

County News Service

Three 17-year-old boys accused of murdering a young college student who was a La Jolla High graduate after luring him to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by posing as sellers on Craigslist were scheduled to be charged today as adults.

The suspects were arrested shortly after the fatal shooting, which occurred about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to San Diego police. Their names were withheld pending their court initial appearances because they are minors.

Patrol officers responding to a report of gunfire found the victim, whom family and friends later identified as 18-year-old Garrett Berki, a 2010 La Jolla High School graduate who lived with his mother in Mission Beach, slumped over the wheel of his car in the 3000 block of Artemia Way, SDPD homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney said. Medics took the mortally wounded man to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, where he was pronounced dead about a half-hour later.

At La Jolla High School Thursday evening, students painted memorial benches on campus honoring their slain alumnus.

“Garrett’s passing is a terrible, senseless tragedy,” said Dana Shelburne, La Jolla High principal Friday morning. “The loss of a young life under such circumstances eludes our ability to understand, which makes the healing process all the more difficult. The thoughts and sympathies of the entire La Jolla High School community go out to his family and friends.”

Shelburne talked about the significance of the memorial benches. “When we lose a member of the Viking family, that’s where the kids go,” he said. “It’s a spot where they can gather and leave messages. It’s a nice tradition that helps them process what’s happened and come to terms with it.”

Shelburne said students had gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Berki home Thursday night.

Berki, a Mesa College student, had gone with his girlfriend to the eastern San Diego neighborhood where he was slain to buy an item he'd seen for sale online. Police declined to identify what he intended to purchase, but friends said it may have been an auto part he needed to repair a car he had borrowed.

Arriving at a pre-arranged meeting place, the couple was met by three youths who briefly pretended to be the Craigslist sellers before pulling a gun and demanding their cash and cell phones, Rooney said. Following the holdup, the trio fled in a green Honda Accord, and Berki tailed them in his vehicle for

about a mile to try to get a license plate number.

Reaching a cul-de-sac near Parkside Park, the Accord circled around and headed back toward Berki's car.

As the vehicles were next to each other, one of the (robbers) fired a

shot, striking the victim,'' Rooney said.

Berki's girlfriend was uninjured.

The thieves continued fleeing to the west for a short distance before the driver lost control of the Honda in the 3000 block of Fleming Way, sending it skidding to a halt. The three occupants then jumped out and ran off.

Officers searched the area by ground and aboard an SDPD helicopter before capturing the three suspects about a block from the site of the crash.

The teens were booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of murder and

robbery, Rooney said.

Dave Schwab contributed to this article.[gallery]



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