A Baldwin Park man Wednesday admitted participating in a San Gabriel Valley-based drug distribution conspiracy Wednesday and admitted fatally shooting a man in La Puente in 2006, federal officials said.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, 39, faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he returns to court in Los Angeles for sentencing Jan. 25, U.S. Assistant Attorney Mack Jenkins said. But under the plea deal, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a prison term of 18 to 24 years to the presiding judge.
Garcia pleaded guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy which included murder, Jenkins explained.
The charge stems from a 2010 investigation targeting the Puente 13 street gang’s drug activities in the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
“In addition to participating in drug trafficking activities that include collecting ‘taxes’ or ‘rent’ on behalf of the Mexican Mafia member who controlled Puente 13, Garcia admitted that he murdered another gang member who failed to… make those extortion payments,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Garcia and two other gang members who have since been convicted in connection with the slaying shot and killed 44-year-old David Dragna of East Valinda after luring him to an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Pritchard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, according to DOJ and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Officials described Garcia as a former member of the 18th Street gang, while Dragna was part of the Townsmen gang.
The 18th Street gang, Townsmen and Puente 13 all operate under the leadership of the Mexican Mafia, Jenkins said.
As part of the same investigation that led to Garcia’s conviction, the then-leader of the Puente 13 gang and his brother were sentenced to life in federal prison in 2013.
The investigation was a joint effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
LA PUENTE >> No wounded victims were initially found after a gun battle unfolded on a residential Le Puente street between two shooters in two cars and another person at a home, officials said.
The exchange of gunfire was first reported shortly after 2 p.m. in the 300 block of Lang Avenue.
Two attackers in two passing cars, described as a gray Jeep Liberty and an older-model Nissan Maxima, opened fire with a handgun and a rifle, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The intended target, who was not struck, returned fire.
The rear window of the Nissan Maxima’s had been shot out, but it was unclear if anyone inside the vehicle was struck by the gunfire, Sgt. Liza Vera said.
Both vehicles were last seen heading south on Lang Avenue, officials said. Initial reports from the scene indicated the suspects were five men and one woman, and they were armed with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle.
The intended shooting victim, a man in his mid- to late-20s, was believed to have former gang ties, Lt. Rick Thurlo said.
He apparently received word that attackers were coming after him, and armed himself as he awaited their arrival, the lieutenant added.
It was not clear Sunday afternoon whether the man would be arrested.
The shooting appeared to be gang-related, and sheriff’s gang detectives are handling the investigation, Vera said.
LA PUENTE >> Two men opened fire with a shotgun and a handgun in a residential La Puente neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, but no shooting victims were found, authorities said.
The gunfire was reported just before 3 p.m. in the 400 block of Sandia Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. David Cortinas said.
A vehicle, initially described only as a newer-model, silver, four-door car, passed by and two men inside opened fire, officials said. Several rounds were fired from a shotgun, as well as a semi-automatic pistol.
No victims were found in the area, and none arrived at area hospitals, Cortinas said. No further details were known about the circumstances or motive in the shooting.
LA PUENTE >> A man suffered severe burns and a woman and a sheriff’s deputy were also hurt in an apartment fire early Sunday, officials said.
Firefighters rescued the man and woman from within the burning apartment after the blaze broke out about 1:22 a.m. in the 15400 block of West Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County fire and sheriff’s officials said.
The critically injured man was hospitalized with burns over about 40 percent of his body, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Al Jackson said.
The woman, who also had to be rescued by firefighters, was hospitalized for treatment of possible inhalation burns, he added.
A sheriff’s deputy who first tried to enter the flame-engulfed apartment was treated for smoke inhalation but was expected to be OK, sheriff’s Sgt. Rico Sandoval said.
Deputies were unable to enter the burning home themselves, Sandoval said. Fortunately, firefighters were quickly on-scene with their breathing apparatus and other equipment and managed to get the trapped occupants out. The sergeant credited the firefighters’ quick response for saving the victims’ lives.
“Had the fire department not showed up when they did, those people would be dead,” Sandoval said.
The first firefighters to arrive found the apartment “fully involved” with fire, Jackson said. They extinguished the flames in just over 20 minutes.
The fire primarily scorched one apartment unit, but a second family was displaced from an adjacent apartment as a result of the fire as well, he said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
POMONA >> A 28-year-old Rowland Heights man was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years to life in prison for stabbing to death an ex-boyfriend in an industrial area in La Puente, authorities said.
Andres Aguirre was convicted June 2 of the first degree murder of Joseph Chacon of El Monte, whose body was found behind a business in the 15900 block of Old Valley Boulevard on Feb. 12, 2014, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. The men had been involved in a previous relationship but were friends at the time of the stabbing.
Ardalani said Aguirre drove him to La Puente, Ardalani said. Chacon got out of the car to urinate when Aguirre followed after him and stabbed him in the chest and back.
The prosecution argued that Aguirre stabbed Chacon because he felt angered and disrespected by Chacon for taking phone calls while the men spent the evening together. Aguirre’s defense attorney, Louisa Pensanti said her client acted in what he believed to be self-defense.
“He wasn’t angry, he was fearful,” she said.
Chacon had on the phone with a man Aguirre believed to be involved with gangs, Pensanti said. Believing Chacon was arranging an attack of some kind, Aguirre stabbed him, Pensanti said.
Pensanti also disputed the prosecution’s assertion that Aguirre provided Chacon with a large amount of alcohol prior to the fatal stabbing. Pensanti said Aguirre brought only two beers with him, though Chacon drank more of his own alcohol. “He wasn’t plied with liquor,” Pensanti said.
The defense asked the jury to convict Aguirre of the lesser crime of manslaughter, but the jury sided with the prosecution and found Aguirre guilty of first-degree murder.
– Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day
BALDWIN PARK >> Authorities have released the identity of a 23-year-old La Puente man killed in a motorcycle crash on the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park last week.
David Calvillo died at the scene of Thursday’s 7:50 a.m. crash on the westbound 10 Freeway near Puente Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
Calvillo was westbound on the freeway on a 2015 Harley-Davidson motorcycle when he lost control and ended up being thrown onto the roadway, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
The left, rear portion of a Greyhound charter bus heading westbound on the 10 Freeway at 20 to 25 mph ran over Calvillo, causing fatal injuries, the officer said.
The bus driver and four-dozen passengers on-board reported no injuries, officials said.
LA PUENTE >> A domestic violence suspect fatally shot himself at the conclusion of a 12-hour standoff with deputies at a La Puente condominium Sunday, officials said.
The incident began about 12:25 a.m. when deputies responded to a report of domestic violence in the 900 block of Willow Avenue, near Amar Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Thurlo said.
Deputies encountered a woman suffering from apparently minor injuries to her face who told them she had been assaulted by her husband, the sergeant said.
The husband remained in the home and refused to come out, Thurlo said. The woman advised deputies the man was “heavily intoxicated” and had a rifle.
A short time later, “Deputies saw him in the garage with what appeared to be a rifle,” Thurlo said.
Nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution, and a SWAT team was summoned to the scene to take over the situation.
After attempts to order the man out of the home via telephone and loudspeakers were unsuccessful, SWAT deputies launched tear gas into the garage shortly after 10 a.m. in an attempt to flush the suspect out, officials said.
SWAT team members heard a gunshot as they forced their way into the home about 12:35 p.m., Thurlo said. They then found the suspect inside the home, dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was estimated to be in his 60s.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau took over the investigation.
POMONA >> A La Puente man accused of fatally shooting a man in West Covina, as well as shooting and wounding his ex-girlfriend in Covina, during an alleged crime spree in April, pleaded not guilty to six felony charges Thursday, authorities said.
Manuel Jerome Lujan, described by police as a 33-year-old West Covina gang member, appeared in Pomona Superior court where he denied charges of murder, attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, robbery, assault with a firearm and exhibiting a concealed firearm in public, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Prosecutors further allege that Lujan intentionally fired a firearm causing injury or death, and that Lujan was previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2001.
His alleged series of violent crimes took place between April 26 and April 29. It began when Lujan robbed a man of his cell phone at gunpoint in Valinda and brandished a gun at other victims, according to prosecutors.
Three days later, he fatally shot 36-year-old Jabarri Butts behind a Social Security office in the 500 block of South Vincent Avenue, and opened fire on a nearby home, West Covina police officials said.
Hours later, he showed up at the home of his ex-girlfriend in the 300 block of West Center Street in Covina, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said. He through rocks and the woman’s window to get her attention, then shot her when she came to the window.
Lujan is scheduled to appear in Pomona Superior Court July 9 for a hearing, officials said. If convicted as charged, he could face life in prison.
POMONA >> A jury convicted a Rowland Heights man Tuesday of fatally stabbing his ex-boyfriend, an El Monte man, to death in an industrial neighborhood in La Puente last year.
Andres Aguirre, 28, also known as Andres Aguirre Garcia, faces up to 26 years to life in prison when he returns to Pomona Superior Court July 7 to be sentenced for the Feb. 12, 2014, slaying of 27-year-old Joseph Chacon, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The men had ended a relationship years prior to the stabbing but had recently reunited and become friends at the time of the killing, officials said.
On the night of the fatal stabbing, Aguirre picked up the victim at his Rowland Heights home, authorities said. “Aguirre provided Chacon with a large amount of alcohol and drove the victim to an isolated industrial area in La Puente,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
The men ended up in a parking lot behind an insulation business owned by La Puente’s then-mayor, Charlie Klinakis, in the 15900 block of Old Valley Road in La Puente, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
“At one point, the victim exited the car to urinate and Aguirre followed,” the statement said. “As the victim attempted to return to the car, Aguirre fatally stabbed Chacon in the chest and back.”
“Four of the five wounds were fatal or potentially fatal,” Deputy District attorney Lauren Guber said.
Chacon’s body was found by a passer-by a short time later.
Detectives arrested Aguirre two days later after he agreed to meet with detectives for an interview. He was the last person known to have seen Chacon alive.
As Aguirre’s story failed to add up, he confessed to stabbing Chacon, sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Chacon and Aguirre had been involved in a relationship, but broke it off in 2006, the prosecutor said. The men fell out of touch for several years, but began a friendship when they met by a coincidence on a bus in the year or so leading up to the deadly encounter.
Following his arrest, Aguirre told investigators that he became angry at Chacon because he believed Chacon was being a bad friend and disrespecting him by taking phone calls and making other plans while the men spent the evening together, Guber said. Aguirre also made mention of seemingly unfounded, irrational fears that Chacon or one of his friends would harm him, though Chacon never physically harmed or threatened Aguirre.
Aguirre told detectives his intention on the night of the killing was to “test their friendship,” Guber said. He brought the knife with him when he picked up Chacon, later admitting to investigators that if the night did not go well, the thought of killing his friend had crossed his mind.
Following his arrest, the killer then led investigators to a roadside in Walnut where he had buried the knife used in the killing, described as an ornamental sword-like knife with a blade about 10 inches long, Guber said. “He seemed to have driven it into the ground with a hammer.”
That confession was played as evidence for the jury during the trial, Ardalani said.
Following a five-day trial, jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding Aguirre guilty of first degree murder, along with the special allegation that he personally used a knife in the killing, the prosecutor said. In doing so, jurors rejected the defense’s position that Aguirre should be convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder.
“The jury worked hard. I think they came to the right decision, Guber said.
A Compton man is accused of drunken driving and manslaughter following a weekend crash in Barstow that claimed the lives of two passengers, including a La Puente woman, and seriously injured two others, authorities said.
Leticia Magana, 35, of La Puente died in the crash, which took place about 4:10 p.m. on the southbound 15 Freeway, just south of Barstow Road, San Bernardino coroner’s Deputy John Kroeker said. Another passenger also died at the scene of the crash, however officials did not release the second victim’s identity Thursday.
“A 43-year-old male driver, Jesus (Mojica) Rivera, driving a black Kia SUV with 4 passengers, collided into the rear of a truck tractor trailer driven by a 56 year old male driver,” CHP Officer Ryan Camara said. “During the investigation, alcohol was found to be a factor in the collision.”
After pleading not guilty to charges of drunken driving, vehicular manslaughter and child endangerment, Rivera is being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled May 28, according to San Bernardino Superior Court and booking records.
Rivera suffered injuries in the crash, but has since received treatment and been booked into jail, Camara said.
Rescuers floew two additional passengers of the Kia to a hospital by helicopter with major injuries, Camara said.