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Driver Convicted in Slaying

Courts: He drove the getaway van used by a gunman who killed a Costco shopper while attempting to rob an armored truck last year.

November 03, 2001|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It took a jury just three hours Friday to convict a Van Nuys man of first-degree murder in an August 2000 shooting spree outside a Costco store in Van Nuys, where an aspiring screenwriter was killed and three other shoppers wounded.

Ignacio Cervantes Chavez, 48, was accused of driving the getaway van for his brother, Ramon Gutierrez, 39, of Tijuana, the alleged shooter. Gutierrez is set to stand trial in Van Nuys later this month.

The Van Nuys jury found Chavez guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Owen Wolf, 29, of Studio City during an attempted robbery. Chavez was also convicted of four counts of attempted murder and attempted robbery. Superior Court Judge Michael Hoff is set to sentence him Nov. 16.

During the two-week trial, Chavez's two sons testified that they lied when they told police their father drove the white van that carried the two armed robbers away from the chaotic crime scene.

Prosecutors say Chavez and Gutierrez, who was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, ambushed guard Daniel Salazar as he left the store and headed toward the armored truck with a bag full of money. A gunfight followed, and the two assailants escaped.

Authorities later found weapons, including an AK-47, at the home of Ignacio Chavez Jr., Deputy Dist. Atty. Jane Winston said. Another witness recognized the white van used in the getaway as the one often parked at Chavez's apartment complex on Hazeltine Street.

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