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18-year-old charged in shooting death of Marine in Twentynine Palms

A view of a courtroom inside San Bernardino Superior Court
San Bernardino County prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old man in the fatal shooting of a Marine during an alleged attempted carjacking in Twentynine Palms and the alleged attempted murder of two other people.
(Eric Thayer / For The Times)
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San Bernardino County prosecutors charged an 18-year-old man this week in the fatal shooting of a U.S. Marine in Twentynine Palms and the alleged attempted murder of two other people, authorities said.

Rudy Garcia Jr. is accused of killing 35-year-old Robert James McDonald on Monday night while he sat in his car with his dog, the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. McDonald was an active-duty gunnery sergeant stationed with the Marine Corps Logistic Operations Group in Twentynine Palms, according to the district attorney’s office.

Sheriff’s deputies responded shortly before 8 p.m. to reports of a group of four or five people causing a disturbance near the intersection of Old Dale Road and Alpine Avenue, authorities said. Initially, a neighbor tried to speak with the group, but some of the individuals became hostile.

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Not long after the exchange, one of the suspects, who was later identified as Garcia, fired several rounds from a gun toward the neighbor and another individual, authorities said. Neither was hit, authorities said, and Garcia ran toward Knott Sky Park on El Sol Avenue.

The other people who were with Garcia went in a different direction and were not seen again, according to authorities. But Garcia then approached McDonald, who was sitting in his car near a dog park on Foothill Drive, and fired his gun without warning at the vehicle during what authorities said was an attempted carjacking. McDonald was struck multiple times and tried to drive away but lost control and crashed into another vehicle, authorities said.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene and provided medical assistance to McDonald, but he died at the scene, according to authorities. The people who were in the other car sustained minor injuries.

Garcia ran away but was located by sheriff’s deputies near the scene of the shooting a short time later and was taken into custody. A handgun believed to have been used in the shooting was also found in the area, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The district attorney’s office charged Garcia with murder, attempted carjacking, attempted second-degree robbery, two counts of premeditated attempted murder and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. Other special allegations have also been filed in the case, prosecutors said.

Anyone with information about this case can contact Det. Shawn Thurman at (909) 890-4904. Anonymous tips can be made at (800) 78CRIME or wetip.com.

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