Two men to stand trial in "Block" bar death

Charges dismissed against third defendant

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Two men who allegedly beat another man outside a Cathedral City bar last summer, rendering the victim comatose from injuries that ultimately proved fatal, must stand trial on murder charges, a judge ruled Tuesday, but the same charges were dropped against a co-defendant.

Jorge Tapia, 37, and Andrew Ponce, 45, are accused on June 25, 2016, beating of Rolando Rodriguez, who was attacked around 2 a.m. outside the Block Sports Bar and Grill. Rodriguez lingered in a coma until he died last Oct. 26.

Tapia and Ponce were arrested and charged last summer, while Michael Rios, 37, was arrested in January.

Following a three-day preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling ruled that there was enough evidence for the case to proceed against Tapia and Ponce, but insufficient evidence to hold Rios to answer to the murder charge.

Tapia and Ponce will return to court Oct. 30 for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment.

The beating was the first of three major crimes that occurred within about a year's time at the bar.

In March, two men were wounded in a shooting stemming from an argument outside the bar. Santos Franco, 20, faces attempted murder charges, while a co- defendant, Felipe Arechiga, 25, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

This July, another argument preceded a shooting that left a man hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen and hand. Four men -- Tomas Zaragoza, Andrew Monroy, Carlos Rodriguez, and Ricky Ceballos -- were arrested and charged with attempted murder in that shooting.

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