Three men began their preliminary hearings this week for the murder of Tyler Tenorio, a 16-year-old Santa Cruz resident who was stabbed at the corner of Chestnut and Laurel Streets nearly two years ago.

Walter Escalante, Pasqual Reyes and Daniel Onesto are facing murder charges and have been accused of gang membership. Each of them has pleaded not guilty. Two other suspects, Ivan Ramirez and Paolo Luna, are still being pursued.

Tenorio was not affiliated with any gang, according to the Santa Cruz police. The altercation started as a verbal conflict between Tenorio, his friends and the gang members. Tenorio’s friends got away safely.

The Santa Cruz community has demanded stricter crime laws since Tenorio’s death, and some neighborhoods, like Lower Ocean, have put together community watch groups to protect their families.

The police in Santa Cruz County are forming a new gang task force to address the dozens of stabbings committed each year in the county.