Suspect Arrested in Fatal Shooting of 25-Year-Old Jack in the Box Employee in El Monte; Driver Sought

A suspect has been arrested in last year's shooting death of a 25-year-old Jack in the Box employee in El Monte, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday.

Louie Herrera is seen in a booking photo shown at a sheriff's news conference on Jan. 26, 2017.

Louie Herrera is seen in a booking photo shown at a sheriff's news conference on Jan. 26, 2017.

Louie Francisco Herrera, a 20-year-old resident of San Gabriel, was taken into custody in Alhambra on Jan. 9, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Department. He was booked into an L.A. County jail facility on a murder charge and is being held without bail.

The felony complaint includes a special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery attempt, as well as a gun allegation, according to L.A. County District Attorney's Public Information Officer Sarah Ardalani.

The victim, Juan Manuel Vidal, was shot to death on Oct. 21, 2016, by a masked gunman during a robbery at the Jack in the Box restaurant located in the 9200 block of Flair Drive, authorities said at the time.

Surveillance video released by the Sheriff's Department showed the shooter, wearing a baseball cap and Halloween mask, jumping over the front counter near a cash register and brandishing a weapon. The gunman was apparently standing near Vidal when he fired the fatal shot, hitting the victim in the torso.

Although the shooter demanded money from Vidal, he apparently fled the restaurant without taking any cash, homicide investigators said at the time.

The department is still searching for a getaway driver who drove the gunman away from the scene, and investigators have requested the public's assistance as they search for the car. It is described as a charcoal gray Lexus IS300.

Authorities do not have a description of the driver, but they have asked for the public's assistance in finding him.

Juan Vidal is seen in a family photograph.

Juan Vidal is seen in a family photograph.

"We still want the driver, we still think people have information on who driver the is, and we'd like to get him, too. So, if anyone has any information, please, we beg that you call and give us tips," sheriff's Detective Adan Torres said during a late morning news conference Thursday.

The suspect in the Jack in the Box slaying may have also been connected to a robbery of a Subway restaurant in Irwindale that occurred two days prior to the fatal shooting, the El Monte Police Department said last November.

It was not immediately clear whether Herrera faced any charges in connection to the Irwindale robbery, but sheriff's officials believe he has ties to several other hold-ups in the San Gabriel Valley area.

Vidal, who had recently graduated as a pharmacy technician, had a promising future ahead of him, according to the sheriff's news release.

Engaged to be married, he had picked up shifts at the restaurant in order to earn extra money.

An armed robbery and fatal shooting suspect is shown on surveillance footage in a Jack in the Box in El Monte on Oct. 22, 2016. (Credit: El Monte Police Department)

An armed robbery and fatal shooting suspect is shown on surveillance footage in a Jack in the Box in El Monte on Oct. 22, 2016. (Credit: El Monte Police Department)

Days after the killing, his mother, Mary Smay, issued a tearful plea amid the search for the shooter.

"I want my son home," Smay said, sobbing. "I want to hold my son. If anybody knows who did this, who took my son away you need to turn him in."

The Sheriff's Department said tips they received from the public after Smay's plea helped lead them identify and locate the suspect.

Smay spoke out again during the Thursday news conference, thanking the public.

“You guys were so helpful to capture this monster who did this to my son,” she said. “But I want all of them to be in jail. The driver needs to be caught, too.”

Herrera is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 2 at the Pomona Courthouse, the DA's Ardalani said. If convicted as charged, he faces the maximum possible sentence of death or life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

The decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made at a later date, she added. He is currently being held without bail.

Anyone with information about the case can contact the sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips can also be left anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-8477.

An employee at the Jack in the Box in El Monte was fatally shot on Oct. 21, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

An employee at the Jack in the Box in El Monte was fatally shot on Oct. 21, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)