Three primary suspects in the killing of an off-duty Los Angeles police officer were arrested in Riverside County Friday morning, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced.Police served several warrants in different locations in connection with the killing of officer Juan Jose Diaz, 24, who was shot and killed on July 27 at a Lincoln Heights taco stand near Avenue 26 and Humboldt Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The arrests were made in Riverside, Murrieta and Temecula, LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala said. Francisco Talamantes, 23, Cristian Adrian Facundo, 20, and Ashlynn Smith, 18, all of Temecula, have been booked on suspicion of murder with gang allegations, according to the LAPD. They were being held without bail. “These are the people we believe are responsible for the senseless murder of Juan Diaz,” Girmala said. Diaz, who had been on the force just two years, was standing in line with his girlfriend and her two brothers when he saw someone tagging a wall and told him to stop, a law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times. The vandal then left and returned with a group of young men who threatened them before a gunman opened fire and fatally shot the officer as he and his companions were trying to hurry to their car, the source told the paper.
One of the men with Diaz was also wounded, authorities said.The gunman allegedly claimed allegiance to the Avenues gang and said Diaz and his group were in its territory, the source told the Times. It’s unclear whether those arrested Friday are members of the gang. “The death of Juan Diaz was a senseless murder, an unnecessary killing in this city,” the mayor said. The fatal shooting launched a massive manhunt for the suspects throughout Southern California.
Over 100 officers worked 24-hour shifts to investigate the killing, according to Garcetti.“Our finest, the detectives from the Robbery Homicide Division, have been working relentlessly, and with great integrity, to ensure that this investigation is done diligently and right,” Girmala said. LAPD said the Murrieta Police Department was also involved in Friday’s arrests. The Assistant Chief also expressed gratitude to members of the community for their bravery with providing tips. “We want to thank the community for their tips, for their information and… for their courage in coming forth and being unafraid ” Girmala said. The Los Angeles Police Protective League issued a statement following the arrests and urged prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the officer’s killing. “We are grateful that the cowards and thugs accused of the cold-blooded murder of Officer Juan Diaz are in custody. We appreciate the relentless effort our detectives and officers put in to finding these killers,” the statement read. “We urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey to prosecute these cop killers to the fullest extent of the law, including seeking the death penalty. We continue to pray for and support Officer Diaz’s family during this time of grief.” A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for Diaz’s family. The fundraiser had accumulated about $14,599 of its $25,000 goal by Friday. Police said more information on the arrests will be provided later Friday. Video from Sky5 and from social media users showed major LAPD responses at homes in Temecula, Murrieta and Glassell Park on Friday morning, but officials would not confirm if the activity was related to the case. “Everything here is every fresh,” Girmala said. “Interviews and such have not taken place.” No further details were immediately available. KTLA’s Kristina Bravo contributed to this report.
Through due diligence and a penchant for justice, we have moved one step closer to bringing justice to fallen LAPD Officer Juan Diaz and his family. We continue to offer prayers and condolences to his family during this unimaginably difficult time. https://t.co/Zk0Qfc1tB3— Chief Michel Moore (@LAPDChiefMoore) August 2, 2019