LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Federal prosecutors say the three men now charged with the murder of 27-year-old Los Angeles police officer Fernando Arroyos are members of a notorious street gang, and the arrested woman is a colleague and girlfriend of one of the men.
An undated image of Fernando Arroyos, a Los Angeles police officer who was shot and killed in southern LA on January 10, 2022 during a robbery attempt.
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“We have a criminal street gang that has been around for generations. It has plagued society, it has plagued the Newton area for decades,” said LAPD chief Michel Moore.
The charges come after Arroyos, who was free at the time, was on a house hunt with his girlfriend in southern LA just after 9 p.m. Monday.
According to the criminal complaint, suspect Luis Rios said he and his group drove around to “make money”, a term for robberies. The complaint says that suspect Ernesto Contreras asked him to stop the truck and “pick up the chain”, referring to the jewelry that Arroyos wore.
In the complaint, Haylee Grisham, the girlfriend, is quoted as saying that 22-year-old Ernesto Cisneros aimed the gun at the officer and ordered him to “give him the shackles.” She said she heard several shots and saw Rios run back to the car.
Officer Arroyos was hit during an exchange of gunfire and later died. After an intense manhunt, the suspects were arrested two days later.
Normally, in a case like this, the police would take the case to the prosecution in the prosecution. But at a news conference Thursday night, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained why his investigators took the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office instead.
“We definitely had talks with the local DAs and their response was not satisfactory. Their plan was just to prosecute a simple murder with no weapons improvements, no gang improvements, nothing,” Villanueva said at the conference. “It did not really cover the corruption of this crime.”
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Chief Moore also said he believed federal charges were justified.
“Federal prosecution in this, the full and complete authority and weight of the federal government, is deserved, justified, and no matter what the district attorney would do or not, I am grateful that the case was referred to federal authorities who filed charges. we do not have the opportunity to review the case, ”Moore said.
As for District Attorney George Gascóns, his office sent CBSLA a statement saying:
“We support the federal authorities in taking the case and will be in communication with all parties involved. We were informed that the case was referred to the federal authorities, who filed charges. As such, we did not have the opportunity to review the case. “
Criminal Defense Attorney Lou Shapiro told CBSLA that it is rare for the federal government to actually catch state crime at the local level. According to Shapiro, law enforcement in this case went to the US authorities to get the harshest possible punishments.
“Had it only gone to the state, it would have been a 25 to life sentence. They could have been released before 25 years. By going to FB, they are going through the RICO statute, which could potentially lead to the death penalty,” he said.
Shapiro also believes law enforcement is sending a message that criminal activity like this will no longer be tolerated.
“Federal judges, they are not dependent on the electorate. Placing in the hands of a federal judge gives that kind of judge complete leeway to judge the defendants as he / she deems appropriate,” the criminal defense attorney said.
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Two of the suspects in Arroyo’s deaths, Contreras and Rios, appeared in federal court on Friday and were ordered to be held without restraint, with charges set for Feb. 3. If convicted, all four defendants will be eligible for the death penalty.
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