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Veteran L.A. County sheriff's deputy charged with murder

Francisco Gamez is accused of shooting a former neighbor who fought with his son in Sylmar. He was off-duty. He could face 75 years in prison if convicted.

November 15, 2012|By Sam Quinones and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Veteran L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Francisco Gamez, sitting with his back to court, appeared in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Thursday.
Veteran L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Francisco Gamez, sitting with… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

After spending much of his life putting people behind bars, a veteran L.A. County sheriff's deputy stood in handcuffs Thursday, charged with gunning down a former neighbor who apparently got into a fight with his son.

Francisco Gamez, 41, is accused of shooting Armando "Cookie" Casillas, a well-known figure in his blue-collar neighborhood in Sylmar.

Gamez was off duty, sitting in his car, when he allegedly fired two shots on the night of June 17, killing Casillas and narrowly missing a second man, prosecutors said.

Gamez, a 17-year veteran who worked as a detective in West Hollywood, was allegedly furious over a fight between his 20-year-old son and Casillas, 38, prosecutors said. The younger Gamez had called his father to the scene, authorities said.

Casillas was later found by relatives lying near his home, and died later at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

Gamez was removed from duty in July after witnesses and evidence tied the detective to the slaying, authorities said. He was arrested Wednesday and led handcuffed from his San Fernando home by his former co-workers.

On Thursday he was formally charged with murder, attempted murder and discharging a firearm from an occupied vehicle. Gamez could face 75 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

In court, where he stood handcuffed in a plexiglass cage, sheriff's deputies peeked into the room to gawk at their former colleague. Sheriff Lee Baca described the whole thing as "deeply disturbing."

Gamez is being held on $4-million bail.

On Beaver Street in Sylmar, where the shooting occurred, Casillas' photo sat in a frame in the midst of a makeshift memorial, along with a cross and a potted plant with U.S. and Mexican flags and candles.

"He was a sweetheart, and very generous," said Patsy Telles-Cabrera, who lived across the street from Casillas for years. "He would check in on my parents." She left a box of chocolates at the growing shrine.

"It never should have happened," said one neighbor. "This is a family neighborhood."

sam.quinones@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

Times staff writer Wesley Lowery contributed to this report.

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