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L.A. County mistakenly releases murder suspect from jail

May 03, 2013|By Richard Winton

An inmate charged with murder in a 2010 Baldwin Park gang shooting was mistakenly released from the Los Angeles County jail system last month due to a clerical error, sheriff's officials revealed Friday.

The department waited nearly a month before alerting the public that Johnny Mata was on the loose.

Mata was set free April 4 from the Sheriff’s Department’s Inmate Reception Center in downtown Los Angeles, sheriff's Capt. Chuck Antuna said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office had filed murder charges against Mata, but a processing clerk had not entered a “hold” for Mata in the jail system computer system. Antuna said he was not sure exactly when Mata entered the jail system.

At some point, a different murder charge was dropped against Mata, Atuna said, but it was not clear if that played a role in his release.

The department's Major Crimes Unit has been searching for Mata.

Spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department did not immediately announce the release because the unit was chasing leads hoping to find him.

The department opted to go public when it exhausted those leads, she said. Sheriff's officials have now notified "all of Los Angeles County law enforcement" to help them actively seek Mata, she added.

Nishida said Mata has been charged in the killing of David De Anda. De Anda was fatally shot Dec. 24, 2010, in Baldwin Park.

According to a Sheriff's Department news release at the time of the killing, De Anda was standing with two other people in a driveway when a man approached and shot him several times in the upper torso.

He was taken to Los Angeles-USC Medical Center, where he died about two hours later, a detective told the Los Angeles Times.

Mata has brown hair and brown eyes, is 6-foot-1 and weighs 197 pounds.

Anyone with information regarding Mata's location is asked to call sheriff’s homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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