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3 Gang Members Who Tried to Kill Officers Get Life in Prison

Crime: The Atwater Village men led a patrol car into an ambush.

April 04, 2002|STEVE BERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three Atwater Village gang members recently convicted of leading two Los Angeles police officers into an ambush and trying to kill them were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler sentenced Mario "Little Boy" Aleman, 25, Ramon "Chubbs" Maldonado, 22, and Joseph "Little Respect" Aghazadeh, 20, to two consecutive life terms plus dozens of additional years for related offenses such as using guns and robbing a passerby of his wallet.

They were convicted of trying to kill officers Tom Baker and Carlos Langarica, who pursued them after an aborted attempt to kill a rival gang member.

Before pronouncing sentence, Fidler called the actions of the three "senseless and outrageous violence" and said, "Whatever I can do to stop it, I am going to do it."

Fidler said gang killings have become so common in Los Angeles that they seldom attract public attention. "In our community, it's just another gang case, and that's sad."

The judge said gang members often show no remorse. "They didn't think about the police officers and their families," he said. "They don't think. They just act."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven J. Ipsen said later that the three men probably will remain in prison for the rest of their lives.

He said each had been offered a plea bargain that would have required his testimony and help in identifying other shooters in the ambush. Out of loyalty to the gang, they opted to go to trial, he added.

The incident took place about 3:30 a.m. on July 4, 2000, when Aleman, Maldonado and Aghazadeh--members of the Toonerville gang--set out to retaliate against a member of the rival Rascals gang who they believed was responsible for drive-by shootings in their neighborhood.

They aborted the plan when they learned that a passerby was watching them, Ipsen said. After robbing the passerby, the three cruised the neighborhood until they noticed Baker and Langarica in a patrol car and fled.

With Aghazadeh driving, the gang members, in a Honda, led the patrol car to the corner of Bemis Street and Brunswick Avenue in their own neighborhood, Langarica said.

He said that someone--in an apparent effort to slow the officers down--had pushed a washing machine or dryer into the street, and another person had shoved a bicycle into their path.

Someone then opened fire on the two officers from behind, while one of the gang members in the Honda shot at them from the other direction.

Baker used his patrol car to ram the Honda out of their way. The two officers returned fire, wounding Maldonado. Neither officer was struck by the gunfire, and the three gang members were arrested at the scene with the help of backup officers.

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