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Police Hold Suspect in Park Attacks : Violence: Officers think they have enough evidence to link a convicted felon on parole with at least two in a series of vicious assaults in Logan Heights.

June 18, 1992|RICHARD CORE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

San Diego police are questioning a convicted felon who was on parole during the time 10 people were beaten and one was killed in a series of apparently random attacks with a baseball bat, pickax, ice pick and other weapons in Logan Heights' Memorial Park.

Juan Jose Galvan, 23, was taken into custody Monday night at his home in the 3000 block of Valle Avenue, within a block of the park, police Lt. John Welter said Wednesday.

Based on information from people in the community and items seized in a search of the home where Galvan lived with his parents, investigators believe they have enough evidence to charge Galvan with at least two of the crimes, Welter said.

However, no charges have been filed against Galvan, who was taken into custody on suspicion of violating his parole and placed in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Otay Mesa.

Welter said homicide detectives have evidence that they think will link Galvan to two attacks in the park June 10. In one of the assaults, a man attending an umpires' meeting at the Memorial Park Recreation Center was beaten by a man wielding a baseball bat. Two hours later, passersby discovered the body of Miguel Mata, 28, who investigators say had been beaten on the head.

Welter said evidence at the scene suggests the attacks may have been committed by the same person.

Galvan returned to his neighborhood May 20 after being released on parole from the Donovan prison on Otay Mesa, authorities said.

The rash of attacks began May 24, and the most recent was at 2:10 a.m. Monday, about 20 hours before Galvan was taken into custody. In a 25-day period before Galvan's release, Welter said, two assaults were reported in the area.

Witnesses told police that a pickax was used in one of the latest assaults. Welter said a pickax was found in the search of Galvan's home.

"I think that if we get some evidence off that pickax we may be able to connect him with a couple more crimes," Welter said.

Police are still searching for the baseball bat believed used in the June 10 attacks and an ice pick that witnesses said was used in a June 4 assault.

Neighbors around the park said children witnessed at least one of the June 10 attacks, but they were afraid to tell police because Galvan, known in the neighborhood as "Wolfie," is a gang member.

"The kids knew that the gang members knew, so they shut their mouths and didn't say anything," one neighbor said.

At the encouragement of adults in the community, some of the children told their stories to police over the weekend.

Galvan's arrest Monday marked the second time he has been held on possible parole violations since his 1988 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer in San Bernardino County.

After being sentenced to five years in prison for the assault, Galvan was assigned to the California Medical Facility until his release on parole in 1991, said Howard Loy, a local parole administrator. Although no information was available on the conditions attached to Galvan's sentence, the facility usually houses felons with psychiatric or long-term medical problems, Loy said.

Last November, Galvan was arrested by San Diego police for possession of a concealed weapon, a knife. Although the charge was dropped, it provided parole authorities with enough reason to revoke his parole and place him back in prison, Loy said.

Galvan was placed in the Donovan prison in late November, where he remained until his release on parole four weeks ago, Loy said.

The Police Department's handling of the attacks has been criticized by City Councilman Bob Filner, who said police did not react soon enough to the violence.

Welter said that only recently did police have information that the same person may have been responsible for the attacks, which appear random in many ways.

Assaults were committed from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Ten men and one woman were attacked, and their ages ranged from 17 to 47.

Many of the victims, taken by surprise, could not provide police with detailed descriptions of their attacker, Welter said.

Also, the motives for the assaults were unclear, Welter said, because the assailant in most of the crimes made no demands of his victims, and only one was robbed.

Although all the assaults were committed inside the park, police didn't notice a pattern because reports on the crimes usually listed the nearest house addresses on the surrounding streets, Welter said.

Memorial Park is bounded by Ocean View Boulevard, Marcy Avenue and 29th and 30th streets.

"We didn't actually realize until the homicide on June 10 that there was a possibility that this was involving one particular suspect," Welter said.

Injuries suffered by the victims who survived the attacks ranged from broken bones and bruises to severe head and facial injuries suffered by a 23-year-old woman jogger.

After the first attack May 23, two attacks were reported May 24, followed by attacks on May 25 and 29, and June 1 and 4. The homicide and baseball-bat beating followed on June 10, with two more attacks committed June 14 and 15.

Besides investigating whether Galvan is responsible for the park attacks, the Police Department's neighborhood teams and detectives are trying to determine whether other assaults in the surrounding community may be related.

"Hopefully," Welter said, "we've got the guy" and the violence will stop.

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