Late Thursday, a Montgomery County Grand Jury handed up indictments for the three men charged with the brutal murder of two Northwest High School students on the eve of their graduation in June.
Jose Canales-Yanez, 25, of Gaithersburg, Edgar Garcia-Gaona, 24, of Gaithersburg and his brother Roger Garcia, 19, of Germantown were each indicted on seven counts. The three men were indicted on murder, robbery and weapons charges, according to records filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court and a spokesman for county prosecutors.
The three are charged with gunning down Northwest seniors Shadi Najjar, 17, and Artem Ziberov, 18, as they sat in Najjar’s blue Honda Civic on Monday, June 5 on Gallery Court in Montgomery Village. Najjar and Ziberov were to graduation from Northwest High School as members of the Class of 2017 the following morning.
According to police, the three gunmen fired 30 rounds into the Honda Civic, shooting Najjar four times and Ziberov 10 times.
The Grand Jury indicted all three defendants on two counts each for the murder of Najjar and Ziberov, two counts each of conspiracy to commit the murder of Najjar and Ziberov, two counts each of use of a firearm during a violent crime or felony for shooting of Najjar and Ziberov, and one count of armed robbery for the theft of Najjar’s cell phone. Garcia-Gaona picked up an additional count because he was Felon in possession of the firearm.
The tragic tale of how two honor students end up shot dead as they sat in a car hours before they were to graduate high school in early June 2017 begins way back in December 2016. Montgomery County Police and prosecutors contend that the shooting of Najjar and Ziberov was retribution for a December 2016 theft of drugs in Germantown by Najjar.
According to charging documents, “An interview with Najjar’s girlfriend revealed he committed a drug-related robbery in December 2016, or January 2017, where it is rumored that he stole drugs from a female during a drug deal. It would be noted that multiple witnesses interviewed during the course of the investigation stated Najjar both sold and used marijuana.”
Charging documents indicate that Najjar sent a message to his girlfriend on the evening of June 5 stating that he was planning to sell a graduation ticket to Roger Garcia. “This was the last communication Najjar had prior to his death,” said court documents.
Investigators found and interviewed Roger Garcia at his residence. Roger Garcia claimed he did not know Najjar or Ziberov and did not purchase a graduation ticket from them.
Detectives developed that Roger Garcia’s brother, Edgar Garcia-Gaona, was shot on February 10, 2017, during a botched drug deal, also in Montgomery Village. Garcia-Gaona was reported to have been carrying a weapon and did exchange gunshots with his assailants.
That shooting took place in the 8500 block of Hawk Run Terrace at about 2:02 pm on Feb. 10 and left one man dead. In a press release at the time, MCPD said “Officers from the 6th District and Fire and Rescue personnel responded and located a male victim in the parking lot area of the neighborhood suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The victim succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The homicide victim is being identified as Wassi Harron Raheem Young, age 20, of Vermont Avenue in Hyattsville.”
Police sources said that incident was to be a drug deal between Garcia-Gaona and what police call a small-time gang known as The Hit Squad. According to sources, Garcia-Gaona was to purchase drugs from the group, but the group decided to rob him instead. When Garcia-Gaona parked, another call pulled behind him and blocked him in. When the group pulled guns, Garcia-Gaona pulled a handgun, and the shooting started. Garcia-Gaona was shot in the leg but managed to get to the blocking car, steal it and flee the scene. According to sources, Wassi Harron Raheem Young was shot and killed by “friendly fire” which is why Garcia-Gaona is not facing charges in that homicide.
A Montgomery County Police press release about the shooting of said, “During the investigation, detectives learned that a 23-year-old male had arrived at a local hospital with gunshot wounds. Investigators spoke with this male and determined that he was shot during the same incident in which the homicide victim, Young, was shot.” Edgar Garcia-Gaona turned 24 on April 1, 2017.
The investigation into the February shooting on Hawk Run Terrace which involved Garcia-Gaona led detectives to Jose Canales-Yanez and his girlfriend/spouse Kara Francine Yanez. According to police, Canales-Yanez identified himself to investigators as a friend of Garcia-Gaona.
Police do not have any connection between the Hawk Run Terrance shootings and Najjar and Ziberov. However, that incident connected Roger Garcia (to whom Najjar told his girlfriend that he was going to sell a graduation ticket too) and his Edgar Garcia-Gaona (one of the Hawk Run Terrace shooters). It also allowed police to connect Garcia-Gaona to Jose Canales-Yanez.
On December 14, 2016, Kara Yanez, filed a police report stating that she was the victim of a robbery. Charging documents for Roger Garcia state that, “The report indicated a blue Honda Civic approached Kara Yanez while she was walking and the front passenger grabbed her Apple iPad and dragged her body for approximately 50 feet.”
According to police records obtained by Germantown Pulse, the December 14, 2016, robbery was originally dispatched as a Pedestrian Struck, in which a 20-year old female had been the victim of a hit-and-run and was then changed to a First-Degree Assault and Robbery call, and a lookout was given for a blue Honda Civic where an iPad was taken.
Detectives believe that the blue Honda Civic which dragged Kara Yanez and stole an iPad and drugs, was the same blue Honda Civic Najjar and Ziberov were found shot to death in on Gallery Court.
According to police, three different caliber shell casings were found at the Gallery Court shooting of Najjar and Ziberov.
On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Montgomery County Police Detectives executed a search warrant at Edgar Garcia-Gaona’s residence at Lamont Lane in Gaithersburg. During the course of the search detectives located a partial box of Blazer 40 caliber ammunition. Police said at a June 17 press conference that 11 of the 30 shell casings recovered at the Gallery Court shooting scene were Blazer 40 caliber shell casings.
Police believe that Najjar was killed because of the stolen drugs/iPad. Police are unsure if there was a direct motive for killing Artem Ziberov. “We do not know,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas J. Manger at a press conference announcing the arrests on June 17. “We believe that we have a motive for one victim but we are unsure if there was a motive to kill Ziberov as well, or he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We hope to be able to determine that eventually.”
All three suspects remain jailed, according to online court records. The three men were scheduled to be in Montgomery County District Court today for preliminary hearings, but the Grand Jury felony indictments made the hearings moot, as the case will now Montgomery County Circuit Court. No trial dates have been set.
Top: Germantown Pulse file photo.
Next: The three alleged killers Roger Garcia, Edgar Garcia-Gaona, and Jose Canales-Yanez. Photos courtesy MCPD.
Next: Police believe the murders were retaliation for a robbery in which Najjar allegedly stole drugs and an iPad from a girl back on Dec. 14, 2016, on Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown.
Next: The victims: Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov.
Next: Gallery Court in Montgomery Village the street where the teens were shot and killed.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.