The Santa Maria man charged with fatally shooting his younger brother was granted temporary release to attend his funeral, as long as his family pays upfront for sheriff's deputies to accompany him during the services, a judge ruled Tuesday morning.

Fernando Navarro, 19, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, with special allegation use of a firearm; negligent discharge of a firearm with a special allegation of causing great bodily injury to the victim (his younger brother Leonardo, 13); and illegal possession of a firearm from a prior misdemeanor probation case from 2017. 

The family will pay about $1,200 for Fernando to attend the funeral service Wednesday afternoon at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, with burial at the Santa Maria Public Cemetery.

On Tuesday morning, Fernando's attorney Sara Elturk pleaded with Judge John McGregor to allow her client to attend his younger brother's funeral.  

"Your Honor, what occurred a couple of weeks ago in the Navarro family is a tragedy. The whole family, including Fernando, are devastated," Elturk said. "His family wants him there at the services as well."

Elturk assured the court that her client would not be disruptive in any way during the services, and that he's been well-behaved since his incarceration at the County Jail. 

"If he were to be released, he'd be accompanied by two Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies," Elturk continued. "It's important for his entire family to grieve together at this time." 

Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu pointed out that while "the people understand, sympathize and empathize the plight in which [Fernando] is in," he is, however, "charged in the homicide of his younger brother," which raises concerns for his and the public's safety. 

"We don't believe it's appropriate for [Fernando] to be released," Trieu argued, noting that sheriff's deputies also raised concerns about accompanying the defendant to the funeral.

After listening to the arguments, the judge allowed Fernando to be temporarily released Wednesday from 1 to 6 p.m. on the condition that his family will pay in advance for the services of the two armed deputies, and for travel mileage. He also authorized deputies to restrain or shackle Fernando during the service at their discretion. 

"This is an incredibly tragic situation," McGregor said, adding that "there's no way that simply allowing Mr. Navarro to attend the service is going to remove the pain the family has suffered." 

Leonardo died Feb. 3 from what officials believe was an unintentional shooting that occurred at the Navarro residence in the 600 block of West Polk Street in Santa Maria. Fernando was arrested and booked into custody after police questioned all the occupants in the home.

He has since pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations.

The defendant's next court date is March 8 to set a preliminary hearing date.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


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