LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three men and a woman with gang affiliations have been federally charged in connection to Monday night’s shooting death of off-duty Los Angeles police officer Fernando Arroyos.
Luis Alfredo de La Rosa Rios, 29, Ernesto Cisneros, 22, Jesse Contreras, 33, and Haylee Marie Grisham, 18, are all charged with “violent crimes in aid of racketeering,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported Thursday.
The charge of violent crime in aid of racketeering carries a potential death penalty and a minimum sentence of life in federal prison without the possibility of parole because the fatal shooting occurred during a robbery.
Rios, Cisneros and Contreras are all active gang members, federal prosecutors said, while Grisham is considered a gang associate. In a post-arrest interview, Grisham allegedly told investigators she had been dating Rios for about a year.
In the interview, she also said that Rios and two other gang members were “looking for people to rob” on the night of Arroyos’ death. the 27-year-old Arroyos was a three-year veteran of the LAPD.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday he directed detectives to take the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because of his opposition to L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon’s decision to no longer pursue sentencing enhancements in gang cases.
“I believe their plan was to just prosecute a simple murder with no gun enhancements, no gang enhancements, nothing,” Villanueva said at a news conference.
Those enhancements in a murder case can mean the difference between a life term with the possibility of parole and never being released from prison.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said he was “grateful for the federal involvement in this case. It is appropriate. I am thankful for the U.S. Attorney stepping in and bringing the full weight of the government against this gang, against these individuals.”
“We have a criminal street gang that’s been multigenerational,” Moore said. “It’s plagued that community, the Newton area, for decades. Since I worked Newton in the mid ’80s. They’re out, by our information…committing street robberies for the furtherance of that gang. This statute was established specifically to deter that kind of organized street gang.”
Gascon’s office provided CBSLA with the following statement Friday:
“We support the federal authorities taking the case and will be in communication with all the parties involved. It was indicated to us that the case was referred to the federal authorities, who filed charges. As such, we did not have an opportunity to review the case.”
According to a sworn affidavit from an FBI agent, Rios admitted in an interview with sheriff’s detectives his involvement in the killing, saying he and the other defendants were driving around looking to “make money,” which he further explained meant to rob a person of property or money.
“Thank you to the federal prosecutors, the FBI and their task force,” said Arroyos family representative Moses Castillo. “For coming in, stepping in and applying the federal law which will now carry the death penalty and/or life without parole.”
On the night of Jan. 10, Rios and Cisneros allegedly confronted Arroyos and his girlfriend after the couple looked at a home they hoped to purchase in the area of 87th and Beach streets, according to the affidavit. All four of the defendants were present in the vehicle before the confrontation. According to affidavit, the two suspects snatched chains from Arroyos and took a black walking stick away from his girlfriend.
“At some point after Cisneros removed (Arroyos’) chains, (Arroyos) and the two suspects exchanged gunfire,” the complaint reads.
Arroyos sustained a single gunshot wound, ran from the area and collapsed in an alley as the two suspects fled the scene in the truck. Arroyos’ girlfriend was not hurt.
Responding sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and found bystanders performing CPR on Arroyos, Sheriff’s Capt. Joe Mendoza said. The deputies loaded Arroyos into a patrol car and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Detectives retrieved a loaded handgun from the scene belonging to one of the suspects, and the sheriff’s department received a report about 9:25 p.m. Monday of a man suffering a gunshot wound in the area of Junction Street and East 60th Street about a mile-and-a-half from the site of the shooting, Mendoza said.
Investigators later determined the wounded man was Cisneros and he was shot during the exchange with Arroyos. Contreras was also found in the area hiding inside the garage of his residence in the 5900 block of Junction Street.
A second handgun was retrieved from Contreras’ residence and will be tested to determine if it was used in the shooting, Mendoza said.
Rios and Graham were later found and taken into custody at their residence.
According to L.A. County jail records, the three men, Rios, Cisneros and Contreras, have been arrested for misdemeanors in the past. No felonies were listed on the website. Grisham has no other charges listed according to the records.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)