A man accused of killing a Burbank police officer last year pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder indictment.
David Garcia, 20, could face the death penalty in the slaying of Officer Matthew Pavelka on Nov. 15.
Garcia, a suspected street gang member who had been accused of dealing drugs, allegedly shot and killed Pavelka near Bob Hope Airport and wounded veteran Officer Greg Campbell. After the shooting, Garcia fled to Mexico. He was arrested in Tijuana after an extensive manhunt and was returned on Thanksgiving Day.
Prosecutors had charged Garcia last year, but they sought a grand jury indictment in a bid to bring the case to trial quickly.
"We figured we had a strong, straightforward case," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Keri Modder, who is prosecuting the case. "For the benefit of the victim's family and the living officer, we wanted to move this case along."
Modder said that typically two years can elapse between an arrest and trial. After the indictment, a hearing was set for May 27. Modder said a trial could be set for 60 days later, although that is unlikely.
Attached to Garcia's murder charge are special circumstances that allege that he killed a peace officer in the line of duty and to escape arrest.
If convicted of murder and the special circumstances, Garcia's penalties could range from life in prison without parole to the death penalty, Modder said. The district attorney's office has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty, officials said.