And then, for month after month, there was nothing -- no arrests, no suspects publicly identified, no possible motive given.
But the speculation had been unavoidable. The audacity of the attack and the glaring mismatch between the ultra-luxury car and the young Latino victim of little apparent means suggested a Mexican-style narcotics hit, the type that has killed several thousand people in the drug wars south of the border.
Now, court records obtained by The Times show that police are investigating whether the predawn shooting was indeed tied to the Mexican dope trade. It would be an unusually bold display of cartel-related violence in the L.A. region.
One suspect was charged with murder Thursday.
A search warrant affidavit filed by a Los Angeles Police Department detective says investigators learned that the dead man, 25-year-old Jose Luis Macias, might have been selling drugs here for the notorious Arellano Felix cartel. The document says a friend of his since childhood may have had him gunned down to take over the local business.
The affidavit describes a Wild West pursuit of Macias that began with shots fired near the historic Olvera Street plaza, blocks from the Civic Center and LAPD headquarters, before it spilled onto the southbound 101. Like Macias, the suspects, identified as laborers, at one time or another drove cars beyond their outward pay levels -- a Hummer and a Cadillac Escalade, the affidavit says.
Earlier this week, the LAPD arrested Michael Angel Aleman, 34, who has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Described in the affidavit as a former gang member, he is being held in lieu of $1.38-million bail.
The affidavit quotes an officer alleging that a second man, Eddie Escobedo, also known as Eddie Hernandez, wanted Macias killed.
"He said that Macias was dealing drugs" for the cartel, the document says. "He further stated that a power struggle erupted between the two because Eddie Escobedo wanted to be the 'shot caller.' "
Escobedo's whereabouts could not be determined.
Another man the affidavit names in connection with the case, Sabino Cabral, 26, is in custody on suspicion of lesser offenses and has not been charged in the killing.
Cabral, who was previously arrested in Arizona for allegedly transporting more than 200 kilos of marijuana and possessing a rifle, is believed to have had a 9-millimeter pistol that was used in the Olvera Street shooting, the affidavit says. The affidavit says it is the detective's "belief that Sabino Cabral was present, if not involved in the murder."
The document identifies two other men in connection with the investigation, describing them as bodyguards for Escobedo.
LAPD officials Thursday declined to discuss the probe. "There are people we need to talk to," said Robbery-Homicide Lt. Greg Strenk.
After The Times inquired about the case, the district attorney's office released a statement Thursday confirming that charges had been filed against Aleman. The statement called Macias a car salesman, but did not elaborate and made no reference to the cartel.
The court documents contain tipster accounts of two men with handguns first opening fire on the silver 2005 Bentley Continental GT near Olvera Street, about 3 a.m. Dec. 12, as Macias drove away from a celebration of the festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The assailants stepped in front of the car at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Alameda Street and started shooting. Macias sped off, made a frantic U-turn and headed toward the freeway, where he was shot minutes later, the affidavit says.
Macias suffered multiple head wounds, as rounds punctured the Bentley from back to front, according to the statement. He died in the hospital two days later.