John Creech Jr.’s Memorial on Santa Clara Way.
John Creech Jr.’s Memorial on Santa Clara Way.
Angel Santos

Justice 4 JJ

On December 7, 2019, around 5 P.M., the Hayward Police Department (HPD) responded to a call reporting gunshots near Santa Clara Way. When they arrived at the scene, officers found a victim with gunshot wounds. Emergency medical crews later pronounced the victim, 20-year-old John Creech Jr. (JJ), dead. 

Family reported that JJ was walking to his father’s home after his sister’s 8th birthday celebration but never made it. At the time, detectives and the community speculated that 23-year-old Emmanuel Padilla Maciel was a prime suspect in the homicide.

The HPD requested an arrest warrant for Padilla Maciel, and over three years later, Padilla Macial was finally taken into custody. He had fled to Mexico and upon reentering the U.S., a record check identified the warrant. On April 19, 2023, Padilla Maciel was arrested by the HPD and later transferred to Santa Rita County Jail where he is currently being held without bail.

“My initial thought was, like any of these types of cases, tragedy… And [to] do everything I can to bring justice to the family,” said Lead Detective Scott Navas, an HPD detective who was assigned the case around June 2020. 

Navas said that the case took years due to the lengthy process of DNA analysis, testing, and obtaining search warrants. The case was particularly time-consuming because the suspect had fled to Mexico. In an instance where the accused leaves the country, the police will contact the District Attorney’s Office, FBI, or US Marshals Office in an attempt to locate them.

The case is currently in preliminary stages of court proceedings with the pretrial set for April and will be open to the public. Padilla Maciel is being charged with three counts; gun enhancement, possession of a weapon while committing a crime, and murder. If he is found guilty of all three counts, he will be eligible for the three strikes law which would sentence him to 25 years to life in prison without parole.

“He [JJ] was a really good person to be around. He was very motivating and uplifting to others,” said Crystle Creech, JJ’s sister. “JJ’s smile lit up a room. He was such a goofy kid. He was kind and caring. He loved with his whole heart and his family meant the world to him,” added Angel Santos, JJ’s mother.

JJ’s family are heavily involved in the case, calling HPD two to three times a week to monitor their progress and gain any information available. The family hung fliers, posters, and banners around the 880 and 580 interstate and the Bay Area. They reposted JJ’s banner on the 880 interstate 50 times due to the natural weathering and people tearing them down. 

“We went city to city just making sure my brother’s face was out there, his name was out there, people knew who he was,” said Creech. “My mom came up with the banner across 880 and it just kind of sparked attention […] I think that was the pivotal turning point for my brother’s case […] It catches your attention. It gives people a chance to start the topic of, ‘Who is he?’ and ‘What happened?’, ‘Why is his family going to these lengths to put his name up there?” Creech explained.   

People continue to visit and pay their respects at the memorial on Santa Clara Way that Santos built. She is grateful for the community’s support in spreading awareness and helping her maintain the memorial. An online memorial website for JJ is also available at 

As of today, Padilla Maciel awaits trial and refuses to speak to detectives about his motives. JJ’s family believes justice is yet to be served.

“An arrest, although we’re very grateful for it, is not justice in our eyes. It’s not the end. It’s really just the beginning. For our family, it’s about 4 years later and it’s like a bandaid being ripped off again but it’s one that we prayed for and so, we’re very grateful to have gotten to this point because there’s a lot of families that don’t,” said Creech.

After four years, Santos and Creech continue to spread awareness by posting JJ’s story on TikTok, Facebook, etc. They hope to keep his name alive and in a positive light. 

“A mother’s love never dies. JJ will forever live on through us as we continue to be his voice,” said Santos.

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