EAST VALINDA – A young gang member is awaiting trial on suspicion of shooting a 24-year-old man to death outside an East Valinda house party earlier this year, investigators announced last week.
Jonathan Lopez, 18, of La Puente is accused of murdering Emilio Borges of Hacienda Heights in front of a Feb. 27 birthday party in the 17000 block of Boulay Street, authorities said.
The attack took place as Borges, along with two passengers, were driving away from the party, Sgt. Brian Schoonmaker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“(Borges) was starting to drive away when the shooter walked up on him and shot him through an unopened window,” he said.
A man who was a passenger in Borges’ car suffered a grazing wound, while a woman in the car was unhurt, Detective Mike Valento said.
Due to an ongoing investigation, Valento declined to say exactly how detectives identified Lopez as the suspected triggerman in the fatal shooting before arresting him Sept. 30.
“Right now, let’s just say the investigation led in his direction,” he said.
Investigators said because the shooting occurred outside a party, there were several witnesses present.
“(Lopez) was under surveillance. He was arrested a short distance from his house once he walked away,” Valento said.
Lopez was 17 when the fatal shooting took place, though he has since turned 18, Valento said. Because of the seriousness of the crime and how close Lopez was to being 18 at the time of the shooting, prosectors have charged him as an adult.
According to court records, Lopez was charged with murder Oct. 4 in Pomona Superior Court.
In addition to murder, Lopez is also accused of the special allegation of personally using a firearm in the alleged crime, authorities said. An allegation of committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang is expected to be added later.
The motive in the shooting appeared to be gang-related, Valento said, and detective recently learned that the shooting may have been preceded by a confrontation between the shooter and victim at the party.
Valento described Lopez as a documented member of a La Puente area street gang known as Townsmen.
Borges himself had a criminal history and, according to sheriff’s investigators, was a former affiliate of a local street gang.
He was convicted of criminal conspiracy in connection with a drive-by shooting at age 17 in 2003 and served four years in prison, according to his mother and court records.
Less than a year after his release, he was again imprisoned for three years after a drug possession conviction.
Both family members and detectives said Borges had severed ties with his gang prior to his slaying.
His mother, Belinda Mendez, said she believed her son may have been targeted because of his appearance. He had tattoos and kept his head shaved.
Borges is survived by a wife, a 3-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son from a previous relationship.
“He liked to have fun,” she said. “He liked to take the kids out – to the park, swimming. He was the best father.”
Mendez said Borges was excited to have just started attending classes at Mt. San Antonio College the day before he was killed.
She added that her son had earned his high school diploma while in prison, and had recently become certified in forklift driving and welding.
He had been working with family businesses plastering swimming pools and cleaning carpets, and was hoping to start a career in the construction industry.
A Hacienda Heights resident, Borges was staying temporarily in Walnut when he was killed, Mendez said.
Lopez is due due back in court for an arraignment hearing on Oct. 27, court officials said.
He’s being held in lieu of $2 million bail, records show, at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
As Lopez awaits trial, Mendez said she is determined to make some positive out of her family’s tragedy.
She has launched a new nonprofit organization called Parents Fighting Back dedicated to deterring youths from becoming involved in gangs or violence.
The organization is planning a youth resource fair on Feb. 26 in front of West Covina City Hall to honor the anniversary of Borges’ death.
The event will feature organizations geared toward keeping kids out of trouble, such as youth groups and explorer scouts.
For more information on Parents Fighting Back, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: Emilio Borges, courtesy