Los Angeles, CA – Police arrested three suspects in three different cities for the murder of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Juan Diaz at a taco stand in Lincoln Heights in July.
Francisco Talamantes, 23, Cristian Facundo, 20, and Ashlynn Smith, 18, were all taken into custody Friday morning on suspicion of murder with a gang allegation, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The three alleged cop killers from Riverside, Murietta, and Temecula were being held without bail.
Officer Juan Diaz was murdered off-duty at about 1 a.m. on July 27 when he confronted vandals while standing in line for food with his girlfriend and her two brothers at a taco stand in the area of Avenue 26 and Humboldt St, according to LAPD.
The officer saw a man vandalizing something nearby and confronted him. It has not been released if Officer Diaz identified himself as a law enforcement officer at that time, according to the Associated Press.
The vandal left the area after the confrontation.
That suspect later returned with a group of males and lifted his shirt to display a handgun.
The officer and his party tried to get in a car to leave the area, but the suspect opened fire on them anyway.
Officer Diaz was fatally shot, and another male victim was shot. The second victim is expected to survive.
The suspect escaped after the shooting and authorities believe that the suspects are associated with the Avenues gang.
Officer Diaz was a two-year veteran of the department and was assigned to the Professional Standards Bureau.
LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division detectives who had been working non-stop first identified the suspect who did the actual shooting, and then were able to track down the locations of all three suspects, the Los Angeles Times reported.
SWAT and Metropolitan Division officers assisted in taking the suspects into custody on Aug. 2.
At a graduation from the police academy on Friday, LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala said the arrests “represent significant steps on the road to justice for [Officer] Juan Diaz, the others who were with him that night, and his entire family,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the chief in giving accolades to his police department, according to KABC.
“This has been an immensely difficult week for the Los Angeles Police Department family, for the family of Los Angeles city employees, and for this entire city,” Garcetti told reporters at the graduation. “The death of Juan Diaz was a senseless murder, an unnecessary killing in this city. And we’ve had amazing people, who I want to thank, working around the clock – over 100 police officers working 24 hour shifts, detectives and other personnel doing everything they could to make sure the forensics and the proper work was done on the site of the murder and of course, looking to bring justice to the family of Juan Diaz and to this entire city.”
The mayor said that Officer Diaz’s family had been told about the arrests.
“Juan Diaz… he grew up here in Northeast Los Angeles and when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up as a little boy, he was one of those boys who said a police officer,” Garcetti told reporters. “I think many of us throw that out and say that when we’re six or seven – he actually did it.”
“He came to this academy and did exceptionally well in this academy,” he continued. “And because of that, was picked for some special duty and was doing what a police officer does, protecting his own community, and the city when his life was senselessly taken from him.”
The mayor thanked the community for coming forward and not being afraid to help the police identify the suspects who allegedly murdered Officer Diaz.
Chief Girmala and Garcetti both credited the police departments in the cities where the suspects were apprehended for their assistance.
“Arrests were made in Riverside, Marietta, and Temecula – outside the city of LA – but we want to thank those agencies and those cities,” the mayor said. “My sincerest thanks for their help in the work that we had to do this past week and in making sure this morning was executed safely and efficiently and without incident.”
Chief Girmala said that search warrants associated with the investigation were also served on Friday morning, and called the latest developments in the case “fresh.”
She said at that point, investigators had not yet even interviewed the suspects who were arrested.
The funeral for Officer Diaz is planned for Aug. 12, the Los Angeles Times reported.