Huntington Beach resident one of two men convicted in beating death of homeless victim

A gavel and sounding block.
Christian Huerta, 24, of Huntington Beach and Andrew Holguin, 26, of Midway City were both convicted Wednesday in the June 20, 2019 killing of 45-year-ol Duc Le, a homeless man.
(Getty Images)

Two men were convicted Wednesday in the brutal beating death of a homeless man in Westminster.

Christian Huerta, 24, of Huntington Beach and Andrew Holguin, 26, of Midway City were both convicted in the June 20, 2019, killing of 45-year-old Duc Le.

Jurors, who deliberated for about a day, convicted Holguin of second-degree murder and Huerta of voluntary manslaughter. A non-jury trial will begin next Tuesday before Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg to determine if the killing was done to benefit a gang.


Holguin is facing at least 15 years to life in prison while Huerta is facing at a minimum three, six or 11 years in prison. The two have been in custody since 2019.

If Bromberg rules they killed the victim for the benefit of a gang then another 10 years could be added to the punishment.

Another suspect, Jeffrey Andrade, remains at-large, and a fourth defendant is being tried as a juvenile.

Le’s body was found at about 10 p.m. June 20 on Locust Street just south of Westminster Boulevard, police said.

Half of Le’s ribs were broken along with his jaw, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Harris said in her opening statement of the trial.

The assailants “saw an easy target” in Le, a “homeless man sleeping on a couch,” Harris said.

One witness saw “them punching and kicking, and at first didn’t know a human being” was the target, she noted.

Then the witness saw the attackers “drag him across the street” and through a construction site as “his hair came out of his scalp,” Harris said.

The victim’s ear was nearly torn off, the prosecutor added.

At some point, something “came over” Holguin and he “bashed [Le] over and over again with his skateboard, and if he wasn’t already dead yet he certainly was now,” Harris said.

Then one of the men told the witness, “Go buy us a beer,” she said.

The witness was so frightened he complied, according to the prosecutor.

Investigators recovered surveillance video from the 14100 block of Locust Street. But it was surveillance video from La Aguila Market that “broke the case open” because it was so much clearer, Harris said.

The witness who bought the beer was seen in the video so police questioned him and he initially denied knowing anything about it, Harris said.

“He was terrified about what he had seen,” said the prosecutor.

The witness identified Huerta, Holquin, the juvenile and Andrade.

“What he’s consistent about is these four people in the surveillance video were the ones who murdered Duc,” Harris said.

A Westminster officer recognized Huerta in the market’s video, and probation officers identified the juvenile and Andrade. Another detective also identified Andrade.

Another witness, who was 14 at the time, also spoke with investigators and was uncooperative, but he was given limited immunity from prosecutors, Harris said.

Holquin’s girlfriend was tracked down through cellphone records, and she said he told her that he and his friends had killed the victim, Harris said.

Holguin’s attorney, Roger Sheaks, argued the beating was spontaneous and that the attackers did not form any intent to kill the victim.

“Never in a million years the kid you heard on the stand formed an intent to kill anybody,” Sheaks argued. “And it’s that intent that is driving this case or not.”

The victim’s attackers “didn’t even know the guy was hurt that bad,” Sheaks said. “How are they supposed to know? ... We had to have an expert come in and tell us how he died.”

Sheaks said much of what Holguin testified to in the trial “was corroborated by other independent evidence.”

The defense attorney accused Lopez of “shading all of his testimony to protect Andrade and himself.”

“It seems like the idea was to beat him up’’ and not kill the victim, Sheaks said.

Sheaks argued for involuntary manslaughter and noted that his client was drinking heavily the night of the attack.

“This is immaturity that went too far,” he argued. “It’s drunken, stupid, young adult nonsense.”

Huerta’s attorney, Joel Garson, said his client was on trial because police decided he was “guilty by association,” and that Huerta was seen on surveillance video after the attack nearby with the other accused suspects.

Garson accused police of “ignoring contrary evidence” in their investigation when some suspects offered differing accounts.

Garson focused on the statements Carlos Orantes made to police.

Orantes initially said he wasn’t there but later admitted he was at the crime scene.

Orantes initially identified Holguin as a suspect but later said he did not recognize Holguin, Garson said. In another interview, Orantes fingered Holguin, the juvenile and Andrade as suspected attackers, Garson said.

But Orantes did not say Huerta participated in the beating, Garson said.

In court papers, Garson said Ricky Lopez came forward after the ex-wife of a “disgraced” Westminster officer tipped investigators that Lopez was at the crime scene. Lopez, who was 14 at the time, was questioned by police, Garson said.

Garson said Le was notorious in the neighborhood for masturbating in public, but even though a pathologist said she saw what appeared to be semen on the victim, it was never tested.

“This has been known since 2019,” Garson said. “They could have tested it last week.”

Garson also argued that police bullied Lopez, threatening to lock him up on $1 million bond and then began shaping his statements to fit their theory.

“They tell him, ‘Don’t worry, we want you to be a witness,’” Garson said. “Why would police do that? Because they had their minds made up.”

Le was killed for no apparent reason, the prosecutor said in closing arguments.

“We’re talking about a 45-year-old man sleeping on a couch, and he was brutally murdered,” she said.

Harris argued that Holguin punched the slumbering Le a few times and then circled back to his friends to “brag” about it, prompting them to ask why he didn’t wait for them.

Harris noted that the attackers also dragged the victim across the street and back. “And the beating continued,” she said.

The victim was born in Vietnam before emigrating to the United States, she added.

Prosecutors said Le had mental health issues and would drift in and out of homelessness.