BELL GARDENS (CBSLA.com) — Murder charges were pending Wednesday in the fatal shooting of Daniel Crespo, the mayor of Bell Gardens.
Detectives said there is no doubt Levette Crespo shot her husband. But now it’s a matter of determining why.
Crespo, 45, was killed Tuesday afternoon at his condominium in the 6300 block of East Gage Avenue, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
The shooting was prompted by a domestic dispute involving Crespo’s wife, Levette, and their son that turned physical.
“A struggled ensued between Daniel Sr. and Daniel Jr. Ultimately, the wife, Levette, produced a firearm and shot her husband multiple times” to protect their son, Lt. Steve Jauch said.
Daniel Jr. has confirmed that story to authorities, a law enforcement source said.
Crespo was transported to a hospital, where he died.
Daniel Jr. was treated for injuries to his face. Authorities said Levette had injuries to her face as well.
Both mother and son were questioned by authorities Tuesday night and later released.
No arrests have been made. However, authorities said the case would be handed over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges would be filed.
He married his wife in 1986 and welcomed their first child, a daughter, a year later. The couple were high school sweethearts.
Crespo was first elected to the Bell Gardens City Council in 2001 and elected as mayor in 2013. He was described as an outgoing politician who loved to sing and often entertained at government functions.
“His wife and his kids. That was his life,” said Albert Bernal, a family friend for the past 15 years.
Crespo had worked as a probation officer for 15 years in L.A. County and had been employed in an administrative role. His old department said his job did not require a gun and the weapon used to shoot him was not issued by the county. The wife reportedly used her husband’s own, legally-registered gun to shoot him.
CBS2/KCAL9’s Dave Lopez spoke with the mayor’s brother, Willy Crespo, outside the gated condo community where the shooting took place. He said he was with the couple the night before the shooting and they had been fighting about money.
“Do you believe that she was protecting her son and that’s why she shot him?” Lopez said.
“Nah, I don’t believe that, no,” Willy Crespo said.
“Why not?” Lopez said.
“Because that’s not the way to handle things. If there were any problems, she should have called the cops,” the brother responded.
Willy Crespo said his brother called him an hour before the shooting and mentioned his wife: “He said she was upset with him.”
Lopez said, “About what?”
“I don’t know,” the brother said.
“Would you brother be beating up his son for any reason?” Lopez said.
“No, I’ve never seen him beat up his son. He loves his son; he loves his family,” the brother said.
The mayor’s brother confirmed what some co-workers and family friends told Lopez, that the mayor’s 28-year marriage was on the rocks: “Yeah, they were having problems.”
“Were they headed for divorce?” Lopez said.
“Possibly headed for divorce,” said Willy Crespo, who confirmed the couple was still living together.
CBS2/KCAL9 legal analyst Steve Meister said Levette Crespo wouldn’t be responsible for murder if she was acting in self-defense.
“If she thought, reasonably, that she or her boy were about to be killed or seriously wounded by her husband, and there was nothing she could do short of deadly force, that wouldn’t be a crime,” Meister said.
Meister weighed in on what some have called a double standard: “If this were the other way around and the woman were dead and the husband had shot her you’d expect him to be arrested by now.
An attorney for Levette Crespo may use Battered Woman Syndrome to explain the shooting, according to comments made during an interview with a Spanish-language station. He said she’s cooperating with authorities and stressed the shooting was not pre-meditated.
Levette Crespo’s lawyer announced he’d hold a news conference Thursday.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office was expected to get the case that same day.