4 charged in killing of off-duty LAPD officer

Federal prosecutors have charged four people in connection with the robbery and murder of an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and allege the suspects are linked to a street gang, authorities said Thursday.

Officer Fernando Arroyos, 27, was fatally shot around 9:15 p.m. Monday in an unincorporated area in southern Los Angeles County.

Authorities said Arroyos was house hunting with his girlfriend when a van approached, several suspects got out, there was an argument and gunfire was exchanged between the assailants and the officer. Arroyos was shot once; his girlfriend was not injured.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced the charges Thursday evening ahead of a scheduled press conference by the Los Angeles County Sheriff. The sheriff’s department was investigating the case and arrested the suspects on Wednesday because the crime occurred in an unincorporated area of ​​the county.

The defendants are charged with violent crime for the benefit of racketeering; they are believed to be linked to the Florencia 13 (F13) gang. They could face the death penalty, or the minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, because Arroyos was killed in the robbery, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The suspects are alleged gang member Luis Alfredo De La Rosa Rios, 29, known as “Lil J”; Ernesto Cisneros, 22, says “Gonzo” and Jesse Contreras, 34, says “Skinny Jack” and “Flaco”. Rios’ girlfriend, Haylee Marie Grisham, 18, is considered an associate of the gang.

Another LAPD officer identified Contreras in surveillance footage because the officer encountered him and Rios in the truck on Sunday during a traffic stop, authorities said.

The suspects are expected to make their first appearances in federal court on Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear Thursday night if they had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Florencia 13 is a Latino street gang founded in the early 1950s and based in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood of South LA, according to a federal affidavit. The violent group controls drug trafficking in the area and is believed to be overseen by the Mexican Mafia.

Rios, Cisneros and Contreras allegedly admitted in interviews with law enforcement that they were members of the gang and had tattoos related to it, the affidavit states. Grisham told investigators they were looking for people to rob the night of the shooting.

On Monday, Rios and Cisneros allegedly confronted the couple and pointed guns at them, authorities said. They allegedly stole items from the two, including a black cane from the officer’s girlfriend, and removed the chains from Arroyos’ neck.

At some point a shootout started and Arroyos was hit once. He ran to an alley and collapsed as Rios and Cisneros fled.

Surveillance video shows the van stopping in front of a house near the shooting and Contreras can be seen exiting the truck, authorities said. He is then seen helping a seemingly injured Cisneros out of the truck, according to court documents.

All four suspects were in the truck, prosecutors said. The whole group would have been at the scene of the robbery and the shooting.

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