COVINA — A Covina man died and two of his family members were arrested Tuesday after what they claimed was an accidental shooting, officials said.
Eliazar Mejia, 21, died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported just before 4:15 p.m. in the 300 block of N. Prospero Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
His brother, 25-year-old Oswaldo Cibrian of Covina, and his cousin, 19-year-old Juan Vasquez of Oregon, were arrested on suspicion of murder, Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said.
One of them called police to report accidentally shooting a man, Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
When officers arrived, they found Mejia fatally wounded in an apartment, along with Cibrian and Vasquez, he said. Mejia was pronounced dead at the scene, where a handgun was recovered.
Cibrian and Vasquez told the investigators that Mejia was shot while the men, who were believed to have been drinking, were looking at the gun and “passing the weapon from one person to another,” Marquez said.
According to the brother and cousin, “The weapon accidentally discharged and obviously struck the victim,” Marquez said. The 21-year-old man was struck in the face.
Detectives awaited the results of gunshot residue tests to determine who was holding the gun when it discharged, Marquez said.
Investigators did not find any immediate evidence that the shooting occurred out of anger or malice, however they could not rule it out, Peterson said.
“There’s still some investigation as to whether this truly was an accident,” Marquez said.
Though booked on suspicion of murder, when Cibrian and Vasquez appear for a scheduled arraignment in Pomona Superior Court Thursday, prosecutors may elect to file lesser charges, such as manslaughter, officials said.
Even if the investigation finds the shooting was, in fact, an accident, it still appeared to involve dangerously irresponsible behavior, Marquez said.
The men appeared “distraught” over the shooting, he added.
According to county booking records, Cibrian and Vasquez were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles pending their initial court appearance.
BOOKING PHOTOS of Oswaldo Cibrian (top) and Juan Vasquez (below) courtesy of the Covina Police Department.