Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Manuel Huerta was arrested in connection with both shootings and Jonathan Zavala was arrested in connection with one.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department has released the identities of two men suspected in connection with two fatal road rage shootings that happened late last year.
The first incident happened Nov. 25 in the 4400 block of East Riverside Drive, when 20-year-old Omar Munguia was shot in his vehicle while driving to the store. The second incident happened Dec. 26, when 21-year-old Miranda Gloria Lopez was shot at the corner of East St. Elmo and South Pleasant Valley Road. She died three days later.
According to APD, Manuel Huerta, 21, and Jonathan Zavala, 33, have now been arrested — Huerta in connection with both the East Riverside Drive shooting and St. Elmo/Pleasant Valley Road incident and Zavala for just the St. Elmo/Pleasant Valley Road incident.
APD said Huerta is charged with two counts of murder for the Munguia case and the Lopez case, and Zavala is charged with one count of murder in Lopez’s case.
Detective Nathan Sexton, who worked the Munguia death, said Wednesday that “by no means were the victims doing anything to attract attention to themselves or cause themselves to be victimized.”
There had previously been fewer details on the fatal shooting of Lopez, however, APD Detective Filemon Camora explained Lopez had been on her way home after eating dinner with her sister. At the site of the shooting, Lopez and her sister’s vehicle encountered a grey sedan who followed them.
Lopez’s cousin, Sophia Salazar was at APD’s press briefing Wednesday to learn more about the men accused of murdering the young college student.
“There’s no reason why you would take two lives, and whatever you did to other people because apparently there’s more you didn’t kill, thank God, but you killed my cousin,” Salazar said emotionally, talking directly to the men accused.
Salazar went on, “To see my uncle and aunt and cousins have to go through this pain is horrible for my family. My uncle seeks the death penalty because they deserve to die. My uncle suffers every day. I wish I could take that pain away. I wish that day never happened.”
Salazar says the senselessness of the murders makes them even harder to comprehend.
“The suspects in these cases were just angry,” Sexton said. “They didn’t know the victims at all and it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around shooting someone you don’t know at all — but they did repeatedly.”
Detectives identified vehicles of interest in both cases based on surveillance footage. An anonymous tip led officials to identifying both Zavala and Huerta.
The men were arrested in early January related to a separate offense. APD said they were found inside a stolen vehicle with the weapon used in the Lopez murder still in their possession. That murder weapon was stolen from a Georgetown resident, APD reported.
Huerta was released on bond, APD said, but Zavala was already in custody when detectives connected the two men to the Lopez murder. Camora said either of them may have been involved in about 11 incidents in APD’s jurisdiction, as well as others in Hays County and New Braunfels.
Camora explained Huerta expressed having anger issues in an interview.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Camora said. “There are more charges to come, and there may be additional suspects currently still at large.”
Although the victims did not do anything to provoke the shootings, APD is urging drivers to never engage with someone who is attempting to pursue them. Instead, Sexton recommends driving as soon as you can to a public place.
APD is asking for help getting information on these incidents, which they say Zavala and Huerta may be tied to as well as other suspects:
2400 block of Stassney Lane – Sept. 23, 2020
Suspect in a white Honda sedan was swerving and driving recklessly behind the victim’s vehicle. Suspect followed the victim further, then fired two shots from the sunroof toward victim.
2400 block of East Riverside Drive – Oct. 10, 2020
Suspect in a white Honda sedan cut complainant off for no reason and displayed handgun at them in a threatening manner.
2400 block of Grove Boulevard – Nov. 26, 2020
Suspect in a white Honda stopped next to the victim on Grove Boulevard near Riverside and began to rev the engine. A Hispanic male exited vehicle and fired multiple rounds into the driver’s seat area. The victim was shot and received non-life-threatening injuries.
2400 block of Spirit of Texas Drive – Dec. 22, 2020
Suspect in a gray sedan engaged in aggressive driving and followed the victim, shooting into her vehicle. The victim received serious injuries but survived.
3800 block of Promontory Point Drive – Dec. 24, 2020
Suspect displayed a gun in a threatening manner toward employees of a restaurant.
If you have any further information about any of these incidents, you’re asked to call APD or Crime Stoppers at (512) 472-8477.