Authorities on Tuesday announced a $20,000 reward for information in the search for a man wanted in the 2020 killing of an Army veteran in Lancaster.
Investigators believe 19-year-old Oscar Palazuelos shot and killed 26-year-old Ismael Zabala during a family birthday party at a relative’s home on the 400 block of West Avenue J-12 on Dec. 20, 2020, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
That night, Palazuelos and another man, who didn’t know the victim, were invited to the party by another attendee and they were let inside.
Some time later, both men were asked to leave the celebration, and a fight started at the front door.
Zabala and another person were assaulted in the altercation before Palazuelos and another man pulled out handguns, Sheriff’s Department Lt. Derrick Alfred said in a media briefing Tuesday.
Palazuelos then fired his weapon, striking Zabala and another person, Alfred said.
The Army veteran succumbed to his injuries. The other gunshot victim survived.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Palazuelos, who Alfred said investigators believe has gone into hiding.
The suspect was believed to have left the Antelope Valley area but may come back, the lieutenant said.
“We had some ideas of where he was originally,” the lieutenant said. “It’s been some time now, and the trails have kind of run cold.”
Alfred said the hope is that the reward will generate some new leads on Palazuelos’ whereabouts.
The second suspect in the altercation was later identified and arrested, but officials declined to release information on that person as the investigation continues.
Zabala’s father joined officials in a news conference Tuesday, asking for help tracking down his son’s alleged killer.
“What we’re looking for is just some kind of justice,” the father, who was identified as Alex, said.
He described his son as a “great kid” who was always smiling. He said Zabala had just gotten out of the army a few months before his killing.
The father pleaded with the public to share any information they have on Palazuelos.
“He’s out there and what he did is not right. And we don’t know if he’s doing it again,” the father said. “So that’s what I’m pleading out here, for everybody to please help out.”
The reward includes $10,000 reward approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and another $10,000 offered by the city of Lancaster.
Those who wish to provide an anonymous tip can call L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.