A Lancaster man has been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of two men in South Los Angeles on Aug. 14 while one of the victims was dropping off a baby shower gift for the other, authorities announced Wednesday.
Jonathan Charles Johnson, a 27-year-old Lancaster resident, is being held on $2 million bail, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said. Evidence suggests he has strong gang ties, Lt. Derrick Alfred said.
The victims—Jose Flores Velazquez, a 23-year-old Ph.D. student at University of California, Irvine, and Alfredo Carrera, a 24-year-old who was about to become a first-time father—grew up on the street where they died, according to their family.
They were "not gang members by any stretch of the imagination," Alfred emphasized at a news conference on Wednesday.
The Sheriff's Department said a witness alerted officials about the shooting in the 1100 block of 68th Street in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood and said that the passenger of a vehicle opened fire on the victims. A third victim whose identity is not being released survived the incident, the agency said.
Deputies assigned to the Santa Clarita station pulled Johnson over the morning of Aug. 16 after spotting the 2004 blue Nissan Maxima he was driving near Via Princessa and Sierra Highway, Alfred said. A license plate check connected the vehicle, which was captured on surveillance video near the South L.A. crime scene, to the shooting.
Officers detained Johnson and the 25-year-old female passenger he was with, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Authorities released the woman after determining that she was not involved in the killing, Alfred said. Johnson, meanwhile, was booked into jail and has been charged with two counts of murder and one count each of attempted murder and discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle at another person, the lieutenant added.
Johnson was scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 3.
Detectives have not recovered the weapon used in the attack, and they continue to look for additional people who might have been involved.
The Sheriff's Department urged anyone with information to call homicide detectives at 323-890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-TIPS (8477), using the mobile app "P3 Tips" or visiting lacrimestoppers.org.
Before Alfred provided information about the arrest, Sheriff Alex Villanueva addressed a judge's recent decision to overturn his reinstatement of a deputy fired for violating policy on domestic violence and lying.