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Officer's Memorials Vandalized, Removed

July 23, 2005|Wendy Lee | Times Staff Writer

Two roadside signs honoring a Burbank police officer believed killed by a member of a street gang were taken down this week after they were defaced by gang graffiti, officials said.

The signs on the Golden State Freeway, which read "Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka Memorial Freeway," were tagged with "187" -- apparently referring to the California Penal Code section on murder -- as well as other markings, said Burbank Police Sgt. Jay Jette.

The number 187 can be interpreted as a threat, he said.

Officials took the signs down early Tuesday, Jette said.

The tagging, which is being investigated, comes in the aftermath of law enforcement's stepping up investigation into the Vineland Boyz, a gang suspected of widespread narcotics and firearms trafficking.

David Garcia, an alleged member of the gang who was arrested in Tijuana, is awaiting trial in the fatal shooting of Pavelka, 26, on Nov. 15, 2003, in a hotel parking lot near Bob Hope Airport.

"Officer Pavelka paid the ultimate price for the service to this community and it's really just a disgraceful thing to have something like that defaced," Jette said.

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