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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Lancaster Man Charged With Fatal Shooting at Restaurant : Crime: Christopher Susca faces manslaughter count in the Nov. 19 death of Raul Estrada in a Taco Bell parking lot.

March 08, 1995|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LANCASTER — After a 3 1/2-month investigation into a fatal shooting that took place in the wake of an argument at a fast-food restaurant, sheriff's deputies have arrested a local man.

Christopher Susca, 23, of Lancaster, was arrested Monday and charged on Tuesday with voluntary manslaughter in connection with the slaying of Raul Estrada, 22, of Panorama City.

Susca, who faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted, is slated to be arraigned today in Antelope Municipal Court.

The dispute began in the early morning hours of Nov. 19 in the parking lot of a Taco Bell restaurant at 30th Street West and Avenue L in Lancaster. Susca and a companion exchanged harsh words with Estrada, who was with his cousin in another car, said Sgt. Craig Melvin, a sheriff's homicide investigator.

Estrada urged his cousin, who was driving, to pursue the yellow Cadillac in which Susca and his friend were riding, Melvin said.

At 60th Street West and Avenue K, Estrada, holding a can of beer, stepped out and approached the Cadillac, his cousin told investigators.

Estrada raised a beer can as though he was going to throw it at Susca, according to deputies. Susca fired once with a handgun, deputies said, fatally wounding Estrada in the head.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Portillo said the shooting was not in self-defense because Susca "definitely used unreasonable force." Voluntary manslaughter refers to the killing of another person during the heat of passion or a sudden quarrel.

Portillo said there was no evidence that Susca's companion took part in the shooting. "He just happened to be a passenger," the prosecutor said.

Estrada was pronounced dead at the scene. At the time of the shooting, he was preparing to move to the Antelope Valley, where the mother of his two young children resides, Melvin said.

The identities of the gunman and his passenger were not known at the time of the shooting. Melvin said he and his partner, Sgt. Robert Wachsmuth, followed up on a description of the Cadillac and a first name used by one of the men at the restaurant.

"We got a listing of all Cadillac El Dorados," Melvin said. "DMV records ultimately showed that a Cadillac El Dorado was registered at the address where Susca resided."

The detectives also learned that Susca had a close friend with the first name heard at the restaurant.

On Monday, the deputies obtained arrest warrants for both men. Susca was arrested without incident at his workplace, Mojave Airport. His friend was taken into custody, also without incident, at the Leona Valley home of his estranged wife.

After their arrests, the pair said Estrada had been carrying a handgun when he approached them, Melvin said. "We didn't find a gun at the scene, but we found a can of beer," he said.

The men told investigators that they had disassembled the handgun Susca had used in the shooting and had scattered the parts in a forest area near Castaic, Sheriff's Deputy Britta Tubbs said.

Deputies also learned that the yellow Cadillac used by the two men had been sold. It was located and impounded Monday by authorities in San Diego County, pending further investigation, deputies said.

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