Arizona police have arrested four men in connection with the death of a gay man, whose mutilated body was found near a Phoenix park, and of sending his family photos of the body.
Christopher Ibarra, 21, was the latest to be arrested on Wednesday in the death of 30-year-old Bernardo Pantaleon, KPHO-TV in Phoenix reported. Jose Rodriguez, 20, Leonardo Santiago, 21, and Manuel Carrasco-Calderon, 21, were arrested last Friday.
Though prosecutors say Santiago was the one who killed Pantaleon, all four men are facing murder charges, the KPHO reported.
Bernardo Pantaleon, shown here in a Facebook post, was found dead on Nov. 26.
According to the TV station, citing court documents, police said a hiker found Pantaleon dead on Nov. 26, with multiple gunshot wounds to his head, neck and torso on a trail near a Phoenix park.
Pantaleon’s family member told KPHO-TV that they think the killing was a targeted hate crime, adding that his body was foundnaked and showed signs of torture.
According to court documents cited by several news outlets, Santiago told police that Pantaleon had made an “unwanted advance” that made him feel “uncomfortable.” Prosecutors said Santiago fired several shots into the victim and left, then returned with Carrasco-Calderon, who he said mutilated the body.
Ibarra, however, allegedly told police that Santiago planned to kill Pantaleon a day before the crime, according to KSAZ-TV, citing court documents.
“He admitted they discussed the murder, when, where and how it would be done, and videos and photographs were passed around,” the document said.
Pantaleon’s family members told police they received two photos that showed Pantaleon’s mutilated body and another one of a man holding up his middle finger, according to KSAZ.
One of the photos was also posted on an Instagram account allegedly belonging to one of the men arrested, according to Mesa, Arizona, news station KPNX-TV, citing court documents.
According to the KPNX, prosecutors cited messages between Carrasco-Calderon, Santiago and Rodriguez allegedly conspiring to “rob and kill” Pantaleon.
The suspects also reportedly made comments about Pantaleon’s sexuality in the chat, saying that gay people were not “allowed in the northside,” according to the Mesa station.
Investigators said that they later learned the four men were involved in a criminal street gang and that a number of its members were allegedly “celebrating” Pantaleon’s death.
Pantaleon’s family members described him in a fundraiser as a caring, loving person who was “the rock for his sibling after the loss of their parents.”
“Unfortunately, we are mourning him as we have lost him in the most tragic way possible. He will be missed and didn’t deserve to suffer the way,” the family stated in a GoFundMe appeal.