Violence by rival gangs cited in son, dad slayings

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsAuthorities believe four teens killed Luis on Nov. 14 in a case of mistaken identity. Luis’ father ran after the alleged gunmen and was fatally shot as well. Three of the suspects were in custody Friday in connection with the slayings. Citing the teens’ ages, authorities declined to release the names of the Baldwin Park residents, all 17, who are accused of the killings. A fourth suspect – Omar Mendez, 17, of Baldwin Park – is still at large and considered a fugitive. “We believe the motive of the crime is gang-related,” said Michael Rodriquez, a sergeant with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. The night of the shooting, family members say Luis walked out to his father’s truck to grab some tools. Witnesses told police two men then approached Luis and were talking with him before Luis was shot. After the gunfire, Luis’ father ran outside and saw his son lying near the sidewalk. Pedro Estrada began running after the suspects, chasing them about four homes up the street before he was also shot. Luis died at the scene. His father died at a nearby hospital. Rodriguez would not divulge any further details surrounding the killings but did say that all four of the suspects were there at the time. Of the teens, all – except Mendez – are suspected gang members from two nonrival Baldwin Park gangs. Mendez is believed to have ties to one of those gangs, Rodriguez said. But a third, rival gang is also involved, according to authorities. Rodriguez said he believes there were several altercations between the rival gangs in the days leading up to the Estrada slayings that may have triggered the shootings. That includes an incident outside of North Park Continuation High School the same day Luis and his father were killed, and an unreported shooting a day before at a nearby park. Authorities did not want to release the names of these gangs for fear it might spark more violence. “We believe (all) this carried over into that evening when the two victims were shot,” Rodriguez said. Authorities believe the suspects were out to shoot someone from the rival gang. Instead, they came upon Luis, who was mistakenly targeted, Rodriguez said. He declined to publicly say who the intended target was. An e-mail sent last month from a man claiming to be Luis’ older brother stated that, “All I want people to know is that my brother was not a gang member.” All four suspects – who attended North Park Continuation High School – have been charged with murder with a special gang allegation, Rodriguez said. Two of the teens were arrested Thursday afternoon – one at his Baldwin Park home and the other at a relative’s house in Ontario, Rodriguez said. A third teen was already in custody at a Los Angeles juvenile facility. He was arrested two weeks ago on a parole violation, Rodriguez said, adding that he did not know what prior convictions that suspect had. As a helicopter flew overhead Thursday night, detectives knocked on the door of Mendez’s Francisquito home to make the final arrest, but the teen wasn’t there. “The mother and father said they did not know where he was,” Rodriguez said. “We find that hard to believe. (Mendez) doesn’t have a job, his vehicle has been impounded for evidence and he has no means of supporting himself.” Police believe family members may have assisted Mendez – who is a member of the National Guard – in fleeing to another state or to Mexico. Rodriguez said that two days after Mendez was questioned, his family put their house up for sale. A Remax realty sign can be seen hanging from the family’s balcony. Mendez enlisted with the California National Guard on June 4, according to Lt. Theresa Chrystal, a Guard spokeswoman. The private had completed basic training and was awaiting technical training, she said. Now, the guard’s criminal investigation division is assisting in finding him. “I am very pleased to see that (some of) the people who committed this horrific crime have been captured,” Cruz said. Students at the school are still recovering from the deaths, he added. “I think the wounds are still there,” he said. “This is more than just kids losing a friend.” Officials say gang violence in Baldwin Park has steadily decreased over the decades. “I can remember 15 years ago it was common for groups of gang members to be walking down busy streets,” said David Reynoso, a lieutenant with the Baldwin Park Police Department. “That’s not around anymore.” Mayor Manuel Lozano – who could not be reached for comment Friday – has said in the past that despite the recent violence, Baldwin Park is still a safe community. It is difficult to say whether gang violence in any city where gang members live can be completely eradicated, Reynoso said. And nowadays, it’s hard to draw the line, Cruz said, considering that teens grow up in the same neighborhoods as gang members. “There are ongoing feuds,” Rodriguez said. “Is it a gang war? That’s something the media does. Gangs we know historically are going to fight with rivals. Sometimes it’s just a fight, but other times they pull out guns.” Anyone with information on the shootings can call (323) 890-5500 or (626) 960-1955. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2109160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BALDWIN PARK – The family of a son and father gunned down in front of their home moved to Mexico shortly after the two were buried, friends said. A worker was seen Friday painting the inside of the now-empty Downing Avenue home where Luis Estrada, 14, and his father, Pedro “Pepe” Estrada, 40, lived before they were killed by suspected gang members. A woman, who asked not to be identified but described herself as a friend and former co-worker of Luis’ mother, said the grieving widow and her two other sons left for Mexico about a week after the slayings. Luis Cruz, principal of Baldwin Park High School, where Luis was a freshman, said the mother thought that would be the best thing for the family. last_img read more