Police: Killing of LA officer part of series of crimes
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The fatal shooting of an off-duty Los Angeles police officer occurred during a two-hour series of crimes by gang members that included another attempted shooting where the targets were unhurt, authorities said.
Prosecutors on Tuesday filed multiple charges against two men and a woman arrested last week in the killing of Officer Juan Diaz.
The 24-year-old officer was gunned down after he confronted the trio spray-painting gang graffiti near a taco stand, investigators said.
Francisco Talamantes, 23, Cristian Facundo, 20 and Ashlynn Smith, 18, were tagging buildings early on July 27, Police Chief Michel Moore said at a Tuesday news conference.
At around 12:45 a.m. they tagged a sidewalk in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood where Diaz was eating tacos with three friends, Moore said.
When Diaz asked them to stop, Facundo became aggressive and lifted up his shirt to display a handgun, the chief said.
Diaz and his friends tried to get into a car to avoid violence, but Facundo shot into the vehicle, according to investigators. The officer and one of the other men were hit by gunfire. Diaz died from his wounds and the other man was hospitalized with critical injuries. He’s now recovering at home, Moore said.
After Facundo shot Diaz, the three drove to another location where they fired at an ex-boyfriend of Smith and another person — but the gun malfunctioned, Moore said.
Facundo and Talamantes were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder with the special circumstance allegation of being gang members, prosecutors said.
Both men and Smith each face one count of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and vandalism. Smith also faces one count of accessory after the fact, prosecutors said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the defendants had obtained lawyers.
Diaz is the second off-duty officer killed in the Los Angeles area in recent months. In June, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was shot and killed at a Jack in the Box restaurant in the suburb of Alhambra.
The suspect, Rhett Nelson of Utah, is also charged in the killing of professional Russian snowboarder Dmitry Kolstov. Authorities have said that the killings of Solano and Kolstov are believed to be random. Nelson has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
Diaz had been on the force for two years and was assigned to the police department’s Professional Standards Bureau.
The union that represents Los Angeles Police Department officers said prosecutors should seek the death penalty in the case.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, issued a moratorium on death row executions in March that granted temporary reprieves to more than 700 inmates.
He said no executions would take place during his term. California has executed 13 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.