OAKLAND — An Oakland man accused of killing an acquaintance at a friends barbecue gave no warning, had no conflict with the victim, and offered no coherent motive other than saying something about “devil” influence, according to witness testimony.

Jason Arias, 21, is charged with the m*rder of 25-year-old Jesus Henriquez-Martinez at a barbecue on 26th Avenue in Oakland on July 20, 2020. Witnesses during his initial interview in July testified that Arias and Henriquez-Martinez had just returned from a trip to the store to get alcohol and a cigar wrapper with a third party when Arias inexplicably drew a gun and shot Henriquez-Martinez.

Arias’ then-girlfriend testified at trial that she spoke to Arias about the shooting hours later, prior to his arrest, and that he had a blank look and appeared “in shock”. She testified that he said something about being “touched by the devil” or that “the devil made me do it”. Later, during police questioning, she said Arias told her he believed the devil had sent three people to hurt him, and that Henriquez-Martinez was one of them, according to court records.

According to multiple witnesses, Arias – who was 19 at the time of the shooting – barely knew Henriquez-Martinez and met him through a mutual friend who was organizing a barbecue. Witnesses said he did not appear intoxicated, nervous or even angry in the moments leading up to the shooting.

Arias pleaded not guilty and appeared briefly in court this week. His next appearance is set for January, according to court records.

At the preliminary hearing, deputy public defender Palden Ukyab argued on technical grounds that prosecutors had failed to establish that the victim – whose eyewitnesses were nicknamed “Chuy” – was the same person the police detective referred to when he testified in the case. Henriquez-Martinez’s body.

Judge Andrew Steckler did not respond to Ukyab’s arguments and instead simply ruled that prosecutors had established enough to move the case forward. He held Arias to answer the m*rder charge. The date of the hearing has not yet been set.

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