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Attempted Murder Charge Filed in Attack on Hawthorne Police

June 01, 1989|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

Charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon were filed Wednesday against a man who allegedly drove into a police officer Sunday, in what authorities said was the second attack on Hawthorne undercover officers in five days.

Jesus Castro, 30, of Hawthorne, will be arraigned on the two felony charges, authorities said, when he is released from the jail ward at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was reported to be in good condition after being shot in the left arm by officers.

Two other men, who police also described as gang members, were shot during the confrontation in the parking lot of a small machine shop at the corner of Yukon Avenue and 132nd Street. Carlos Lopez, 29, of Long Beach died of his wounds. Nestor Largaspada, 25, was reported in stable condition at the hospital jail ward.

The bloody confrontation between police and the three men occurred at the end of a weeklong undercover operation by Hawthorne police. It was near the start of the operation that a man shot at two other officers.

A half dozen officers were patrolling in the neighborhood near Yukon Avenue and 132nd Street, attempting to stop a rash of car burglaries and car thefts, Sgt. Vince Schiavi said.

The officers wore civilian clothes and patrolled on bicycles and on foot through the area of homes, apartments and light industrial buildings.

Weekend Incident

The confrontation between the policemen and the three men began at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, authorities said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Karla Wurthman gave the following account:

Two policemen were walking on Yukon Avenue toward their unmarked police car, when two cars drove past, one after the other. The occupants asked: "Where are you from?" Recognizing the question as a challenge that often precedes a drive-by shooting, the two officers identified themselves.

Castro was allegedly driving the second car. Immediately after the officers said they were police, the second car entered a nearby parking lot in front of a small machine shop and knocked a third officer off a bicycle. As a fourth officer tried to go to his fallen comrade's aid, he was hit by the other car, allegedly driven by Lopez.

Several officers, whose names were withheld, opened fire and all three suspects were hit, Wurthman said.

Largaspada will not be charged because he was a passenger in Castro's car, Wurthman said.

One officer suffered a concussion and the other officer got bumps and bruises in the attack, but both are expected to return to duty soon, Schiavi said.

Sunday's attack came five days after another man shot at two officers from the undercover unit.

The two officers were patrolling on bicycles on Doty Avenue when a man challenged them to a fight, Schiavi said. When the officers ignored him, the man walked into the middle of the street, crouched and fire a single shot, Schiavi said.

Juan Guerra, 23, has been charged with attempted murder in connection with that incident.

Despite the attacks on the officers, Hawthorne police described the undercover operation as a success. The unit arrested 16 adults and two juveniles for felonies ranging from vehicle theft and burglary to drug possession, Schiavi said.

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