Suspect Arrested in ‘Heinous’ Killing of Man Whose Body Was Found Inside Burning Car in Pomona

The body of a man was found inside a burning car parked along Park Avenue in Pomona on Sept. 20, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

The body of a man was found inside a burning car parked along Park Avenue in Pomona on Sept. 20, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

A La Habra man accused of shooting another man to death inside a car in Pomona, then setting the car and victim on fire, is due in court Monday to answer to a murder charge, authorities said.

Homicide investigators arrested Gerardo Jesus Zendejas, 26, Thursday night in connection with the Sept. 20 killing of David Phillip Pena in the 1400 block of South Park Avenue, according to the Pomona Police Department and Los Angeles County booking records. Pena’s age and city of residence were not available Saturday.

Firefighters who responded to a car fire about 4 a.m. discovered Pena’s body inside the vehicle after extinguishing the flames, officials said at the time.

Detectives have since learned the Pena had just gotten off work for the night and was sitting in his car when another vehicle pulled up alongside him, Pomona police officials said in a written statement.

“Without warning, the occupant(s) immediately begin firing at the victim, striking him several times. Immediately after, the victim’s vehicle was set on fire and the suspect(s) fled the scene,” according to the statement. “Pomona police homicide investigators began an extensive search for the suspect(s) responsible for this heinous crime.”

Detectives identified Zendejas as a suspect in the deadly attack, officials said.

Members of the department’s Special Investigations Unit and Major Crimes Task Force arrested Zendejas about 7:30 p.m. Thursday in his hometown of La Habra, according to police and booking records.

A motive in the killing has not been released. It was not clear Saturday whether any additional suspect were being sought in connection with Pena’s killing.

Zendejas was convicted in December of carrying a loaded firearm, as well as violating Los Angeles’ city ordinance barring operating or working at an unlicensed marijuana dispensary, Los Angeles County Superior Court records show. He also had a pending case, filed in February, for operating or working at an unlicensed marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.

Anyone with information on the case can reach Pomona police at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the suspect’s last name.

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