‘They were waiting for him’: California man acquitted of murder, shot hours after release from jail

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Michael Garcia was shot hours after his release from jail, according to authorities. (Eric Castellon/Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)

FRESNO, California — Hours after a California man was acquitted of murder and released from jail, someone opened fire on the car he was riding in Tuesday, wounding him and killing his girlfriend.

The shooting happened that evening along Highway 180 after Michael Garcia was released from the Fresno County Jail, according to information provided by his attorney and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Garcia was taken from the scene to the hospital, KGPE reported. His attorney, Eric Castellon, said he was beyond heartbroken to hear 21-year-old Ernestine Thomas, the driver of the vehicle, was killed in the incident.

“She had been there the entire trial. She’d been there for Mr. Garcia. She was very excited to have her life begin with Mr. Garcia,” Castellon said.

Garcia was accused of first-degree murder following an incident in 2019. The not-guilty verdict was reached around 3 p.m. Tuesday and jail records show Garcia was released from Fresno County Jail at 9:43 p.m. Tuesday. CHP said the shooting took place around 10:30 p.m. along westbound Highway 180, east of Highway 99.

“It’s clear they were waiting for him,” Castellon said. “From what I’ve been informed, it was very clear they were waiting for him outside the jail.”

The investigation into the fatal shooting is ongoing.

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