LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Southern California gang member was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for gunning down a rookie Burbank police officer in 2003.

A judge sentenced 28-year-old David Garcia after he pleaded guilty to first degree murder and other charges in the death of Officer Matthew Pavelka, 26.

“We are pleased the defendant has admitted responsibility for these heinous crimes,” District Attorney Steve Cooley said. “We hope this resolution provides some measure of justice for the brutal murder of Officer Pavelka and the attempted murder of Officer Gregory Campbell.”

Garcia and his alleged accomplice, 25-year-old Ramon Aranda, were sitting in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn near Burbank Airport on Nov. 15, 2003, an area known then for drug and gang-related activity.

Officer Campbell saw the two men in a car without license plates and radioed Pavelka for assistance.

Garcia and Aranda began shooting at the officers.

The shootout left both Aranda and Pavelka dead.

Pavelka was the first officer from the Burbank Police Department to be killed in the line of duty.

Officer Campbell was seriously injured after suffering gunshots wounds to the stomach and neck.

Garcia fled from the scene, and after an extensive manhunt that took about 200 officers from the Burbank, Glendale, and Los Angeles police departments, along with the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he was arrested on Thanksgiving Day in 2003.

Garcia had faced a possible death penalty, but after Tuesday’s plea and sentencing, prosecutors said they would not pursue it, according to Head Deputy William Hodgman of the Target Crimes Division.

Along with his sentence of life in prison without parole, Garcia received an additional term of 25 years to life.


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