SAN CLEMENTE : Teen Says He Threw ‘Stick’ in Fatal Fight

A San Clemente teen-ager testified Monday that he threw a block of wood he described as a “stick” toward a carload of youths in self-defense during an altercation that left 17-year-old Steve Woods speared through the head with a paint roller.

Hector Penuelas, 17, testified he never meant to kill or hurt anyone in the Oct. 15 altercation at Calafia Beach County Park in San Clemente that resulted in the fatal injury.

He said he grabbed the block after a fistfight between a friend of his and a friend of Woods’ in the beach parking lot. Penuelas testified he thought the other teen had gone to round up others at the opposite end of the lot for revenge. He said he threw the block at the first vehicle to leave the lot, which was carrying Woods, because he thought it was coming at him and his friend, co-defendant Julio Perez Bonilla.

“They were coming fast at us, and I was scared,” he testified.


Bonilla testified earlier that he was acting in self-defense when he threw a pipe toward the Chevrolet Suburban carrying Woods.

Penuelas and Bonilla, both of San Clemente, are among six young men and teens, all described by prosecutors as gang members or associates, charged with killing Woods. The San Clemente High School student died 25 days after suffering the injury.

Penuelas and Bonilla, now 18, were juveniles at the time of the slaying but are being tried as adults. The non-jury trial in Santa Ana before Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey is expected to end today.

Under repeated questions from Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary Paer, Penuelas said he remembered little from that night. He denied the “stick” he threw was really a paint roller.


Paer has not said who wielded the paint roller, but he has said Bonilla and Penuelas are responsible for killing Woods because they joined in the attack that caused the death.

A caravan of three cars, including the vehicle in which Woods was a passenger, was showered with bottles, rocks, beer cans, paint rollers and other items as they drove toward the only exit from the beach parking lot, according to court testimony.

Woods’ friends testified they were trying to flee the parking lot and had done nothing to provoke the attack.