LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to capital murder charges in the fatal stabbing of a cab driver in a Burger King parking lot.
Victor Daniel Torres, 32, was arraigned Tuesday in a Los Angeles courtroom in connection with last Friday’s killing of 68-year-old Burbank resident Oganes Papazyan.
Torres is accused of killing Papazyan in a Burger King parking lot located at Grand and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Chinatown after being picked up from Union Station.
A fellow driver said Papazyan and himself would often talk about the “unsavory characters that walked around Union Station looking for cabs.
“Everything and anything comes through here,” said the fellow cab driver. “I call this the zoo, the two-legged zoo.”
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a carjacking, along with allegations of murder of a transportation operator and use of a deadly and dangerous weapon, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Witness Michael Bullard told CBSLA he saw the driver and passenger exit the car and then saw the passenger stab the driver at least three times in the neck.
“It’s the most brutal act of violence I’ve ever seen my whole life,” Bullard said.
The coroner’s office later confirmed that Papazyan died from sharp force trauma to the neck.
Bullard said Torres got back into the vehicle, appeared to grab something, then tried to put the car in reverse, which would have run over Papazyan.
“He went back in the car, ad it looked like he stole some money,” said Bullard. “Then he put it in reverse, I thought he was going to run the guy over, and he got out and took off running.”
Torres, originally described by Bullard as a younger man wearing a black hoodie, exited the vehicle and fled on foot.
“He ran real fast past our car,” said witness April Adams. “And I got a chance to see him but I was like, ‘What is he running from?'”
Patrol officers saw Torres — who fit the suspect description — in the 500 block of North Main Street on Sunday and stopped him for questioning. He was subsequently booked for murder.
Papazyan immigrated to the U.S. in 1990 and had been driving cabs for 20 years.
Some fellow cab drivers said they were too scared to return to work the day after the deadly attack.
“We couldn’t work the next day,” said driver Garnick Rostami.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Torres, who is also charged with one count each of attempted first-degree robbery of a transit operator and carjacking.
Torres is being held without bail.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)