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Suspect held in Silver Lake slaying

Jose Beltran, 18, described as a gang 'associate,' is being held on $1-million bail in the Aug. 7 shooting of Juan Loma, 25, who was taking two co-workers home when he was shot. He died Aug. 14.

August 31, 2011|By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times
  • Jose Beltran
Jose Beltran (LAPD )

A popular Silver Lake pizza deliveryman who was fatally shot while driving co-workers home was a hard-working employee who diligently saved his money to send to his mother in Mexico.

Juan David Vasquez Loma, 25, had been kept on life support for a week after the shooting — a result of apparent road rage — so that his mother could see him a final time.

Loma's violent death marks a "horrible and senseless killing," said L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district straddles the street corner where the shooting occurred.

LaBonge was among those who gathered Tuesday to announce that a teenager had been arrested and charged in Loma's slaying.

Jose Beltran, an 18-year-old who lives with his mother about a mile from the scene of the shooting, had been in jail since Aug. 19, when he was pulled over by a gang detail near downtown and cited for a traffic violation and illegal possession of a handgun, LAPD officials said.

While Beltran was in custody, homicide detectives determined that he matched the description of the suspect in the Aug. 7 slaying of Loma, who worked as a busboy at a popular Sunset Boulevard eatery and as a deliveryman for a Silver Lake pizza restaurant.

Investigators believe the two encountered each other about 5 a.m. at Micheltorena and Effie streets, said LAPD Det. Jose M. Carrillo.

Loma was driving two co-workers home from work in his black Chevrolet S-10 pickup and passed Beltran at a stop sign. Beltran, driving a green Honda Civic, sped after Loma, following him through winding neighborhood streets and flashing what LAPD Capt. William A. Murphy said were possible gang signs.

Loma apparently slowed enough to let Beltran pass, waving the teenager ahead with his hand, said investigators, who said there was a possibility that Beltran could have misinterpreted the wave as a gang sign.

Instead of passing, police said Beltran maneuvered his car alongside the pickup in the 1400 block of Silver Lake Boulevard and fired a single shot from a handgun, striking Loma.

None of the passengers in the truck were seriously injured, but Loma was taken to a nearby hospital. He died Aug. 14.

Loma "was loved where he worked," LaBonge said. "He took his friends home, and then on a neighborhood street in the hills of Silver Lake they passed the car that the suspect was driving, and the suspect reacted in a violent manner.... What a horrible, senseless killing."

Beltran, whom Murphy called a gang "associate," is being held in lieu of $1-million bail at Men's Central Jail downtown.

A female passenger riding in Beltran's car is not considered a suspect.

Passengers in Loma's car picked out Beltran from a photo lineup, said Carrillo, who noted that Beltran was raised in Silver Lake, attended junior high in the area and then John Marshall High School.

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