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3rd man is arrested in death of L.A. County sheriff's deputy

April 23, 2009|Richard Winton

A third suspected gang member has been arrested and charged with capital murder in the shooting of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Juan Abel Escalante outside his parents' Cypress Park home, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators said a fourth man wanted in connection with the Aug. 2 slaying remains at large.

Jose Renteria, 18, an alleged Avenues gang member, was arrested April 16 at the East Lake Juvenile Detention Center, where he was being held on an unrelated probation violation charge. He pleaded not guilty Monday to killing Escalante, who was shot in the back of the head.

In December, prosecutors charged two alleged gang members, Javier Velasquez, 24, the suspected gunman, and Guillermo Hernandez, 20. They were charged with one count each of murder with the special circumstance that the killing was carried out to further a criminal street gang, making it a potential death penalty case.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and City Council members appealed for the public's help in finding the fourth suspect, Armando Albarran, 26, a.k.a. "Chivo," who was charged Tuesday with Escalante's murder. The three men in custody are scheduled to be back in court later this month. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Escalante, 27, was preparing to go to work about 5:40 a.m. when he was fatally shot. His wife, Celeste, heard the gunfire, looked out her window and saw him lying on the ground.

Escalante was a 2 1/2 -year veteran of the Sheriff's Department and had served in the Army Reserve. He worked at the Men's Central Jail. The motive remains unclear, although investigators have speculated that the suspects may have mistakenly believed the deputy was a rival gang member.

The suspects are alleged members or associates of the notorious Avenues gang, which has long feuded with Cypress Park gang members, whose territory includes the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood where Escalante lived.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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