Community Local News News Northeast Edition

Two face capital murder charges in officer’s death

LOS ANGELES — Two reputed gang members have been charged with capital murder stemming from the shooting of off-duty Los Angeles police Officer Juan Jose Diaz July 27 in Lincoln Heights amid what investigators called a 90-minute crime spree that included a separate attempted murder.

Cristian Facundo, 20, of Murrieta, and Francisco Talamantes III, 23, of Temecula, were charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of murder by an active member of a street gang. Both men, along with another suspect, Ashlynn Smith, 18, of Temecula, were also charged with shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and vandalism.

Smith also faces a count of being an accessory after the fact, while Talamantes was charged with a count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

All three suspects appeared briefly in court Aug. 6, but their arraignment was postponed until Sept. 11. Facundo and Talamantes were ordered to remain jailed without bail, while bail for Smith was set at just over $1 million.

The trio are accused in the death of Diaz, 24, who had been with the Los Angeles Police Department for about two years. Diaz was shot around 1 a.m. outside a taco stand near Avenue 26 and Artesian Street, where he had gone with his girlfriend and her two brothers.

Capt. William Hayes of the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division told reporters that Diaz and his group spotted Facundo and Smith walking on the other side of the street, and saw Facundo bend down and begin painting graffiti on a sidewalk. Diaz and another member of his group questioned Facundo, who became aggressive toward them and lifted his shirt to reveal that he was carrying a handgun, Hayes said.

According to Hayes, Facundo walked away briefly, and Diaz and his group decided to leave the area and got into a vehicle. As the group was leaving the scene, Facundo and Talamantes ran along the right side of the vehicle, and Facundo fired several rounds through the rear window, striking Diaz and another man inside, Hayes said.

The driver fled the area and spotted a nearby LAPD patrol car and summoned help, Hayes said.

Diaz died at the scene, and the other man was critically injured.

The fatal shooting was recorded on surveillance video, Hayes said.

Diaz was armed but had no chance to defend himself, police said.

“This murder and this senseless violence did not occur in isolation,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. “This was a part of a larger crime spree.”

According to Hayes, the shooting of Diaz came amid a roughly 90-minute crime spree carried out by the three suspects and another unidentified 21-year-old Los Angeles woman. Hayes said that shortly after midnight July 27, the group went to the 2500 block of West Avenue 33 and vandalized a vehicle belonging to a former boyfriend of one of the women. A portion of that crime was caught on surveillance video, Hayes said.

About 20 minutes later, the group went to the 4200 block of Eagle Rock Boulevard and painted some gang graffiti on a business in that area, after which they moved onto the area of the taco stand in Lincoln Heights, where the Diaz shooting occurred, Hayes said.

Facundo and Talamantes face a possible death sentence if convicted, but prosecutors will decide later whether to seek capital punishment.

Diaz was a native of the Northeast Los Angeles area, and grew up wanting to become a police officer.

From City News Service