A man fatally shot by deputies after carjacking a woman in West Whittier, firing shots and taking hostages inside a Downey barbecue restaurant last week was being sought for questioning in connection with the slaying of a woman found dead inside her burning East Los Angeles home in August, authorities said.
Eddie Tapia, 41, died shortly before 9 p.m. Sept. 10, when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau deputies stormed the Chris’ & Pitt’s restaurant on Lakewood Boulevard in Downey where he had held four people hostage for more than an hour and shot him, according to county sheriff’s and coroner officials. The hostages were freed unharmed.
The standoff began after Tapia was spotted driving in a stolen car in the Pico Rivera area, then carjacked a woman in West Whittier before firing shots from a handgun as he fled into the crowded Downey restaurant, officials said.
As the investigation continued into Tapia, an ex-convict released from jail four months prior to the deputy-involved shooting, detectives revealed he had ties to 46-year-old Rocio Vasquez, who was found dead inside her home in the 700 block of Brady Avenue in East Los Angeles home early Aug. 8, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“Initially, the preliminary consensus was that the fire may have been accidental, but additional investigation, as well as an autopsy, would be necessary to confirm how the victim died,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“It was determined during the autopsy that Victim Vasquez had not died as a result of the fire, but she had been shot and killed prior to the fire being set,” according to the statement.
Though not named a suspect in the slaying, Tapia was one of several persons of interest detectives have been seeking in connection to their investigation into Vasquez’s slaying.
“He was a person we wanted to talk to,” Corina said.
“He was her friend,” the lieutenant said, adding that Tapia was known to frequent the victim’s home.
Tapia’s city of residence was unclear.
No arrests in have been made in Vasquez’s slaying.
— Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
PHOTO [ABOVE] by Keith Durflinger [BELOW] photo of Eddie Tapia courtesy of the California DMV.