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13 Held, Drugs, Guns Seized in Youth's Killing

Raids: More than 200 officers take part in arrests linked to the racial slaying of a teenager in Azusa.

June 11, 1999|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

More than 200 sheriff's deputies, police officers and FBI agents raided homes across the San Gabriel Valley on Thursday, arresting 13 people in connection with what police called the racially motivated killing of a black teenager last month.

One suspected gang member was held Thursday on suspicion of the murder and the other 12 people were held on suspicion of various drug and gun violations.

During the dawn raids on 17 locations, investigators seized narcotics, an explosive device and an arsenal of firearms, as well as documents with racist themes, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Steve Sciacca.

All the suspects are believed to belong to a Latino gang, officials said. The raids were part of an ongoing investigation of the killing of 16-year-old Christopher Lynch of Valinda at a party in unincorporated Azusa on May 14.

"The victim was shot in the back in coldblooded fashion, and the shooter, a gang member, and his gang associates then left the party," sheriff's homicide Lt. Ray Peavy said. "That individual has been arrested today, and we hope that we've recovered the gun."

Lynch was one of two African Americans at the party when several suspected Latino gang members crashed it, officials said.

"The murder was racially motivated," Deputy Elizabeth Sachs said. "Lynch was shot because he was black."

Of the 13 people arrested, five are juveniles and eight are adults. The names of seven of the adult suspects were released Thursday: Alfredo Sanchez, 19; Jaime Cueva, 19; Paul Montoya, 21; Reuben Montoya, 21; Vincent Navarette, 18; Betty Gurrola, 34; Jeana Murray, 28.

More than 30 rifles and handguns were seized in the raids, officials said. Each will be tested to determine whether it fired the shot that killed Lynch.

Lynch's mother told a TV reporter that she was relieved to learn about the arrests. "It's really sad to live in a world like this, where the color of your skin would get you killed," Kim Lynch said.

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