A robber who survived a police shoot-out that left his three accomplices dead outside a Sunland McDonald's restaurant was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years in prison for a string of holdups of fast-food restaurants.
Alfredo Olivas, 19, of Hollywood pleaded guilty June 15 to 10 robbery counts after prosecutors dropped three counts of murder, which were filed against him under a state law that holds lawbreakers responsible for deaths that occur during the commission of their crimes.
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors also dropped two kidnaping and seven other felony counts and agreed not to seek a prison term longer than 17 years.
Olivas, who was wounded in the Feb. 12 shoot-out, faced two life sentences if convicted on the kidnaping charges and could have been sentenced to death if convicted on the murder counts, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth L. Barshop said.
Prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to prove that Olivas provoked the shoot-out, which occurred after Olivas and the other men robbed a McDonald's on Foothill Boulevard of more than $10,000. Investigators said that members of the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Investigations Section fired 35 rounds at the men after Olivas allegedly pointed a gun at the officers as they approached the suspects' parked car after officers saw them commit the after-hours robbery.
The SIS officers had been following the men in connection with a series of as many as 17 robberies of fast-food restaurants committed in the Los Angeles area between August, 1989, and the Feb. 12 shoot-out in Sunland.
San Fernando Superior Court Judge John H. Major on Tuesday granted Olivas' request to be sent to state prison rather than serve part of his sentence in a California Youth Authority facility, an option that was offered because of his age. Olivas said he believed he would be the victim of gang violence if sent to a juvenile facility.
"I'm not a violent person," Olivas told Major. "I know I did wrong for doing these kinds of robberies. I know I'm going to pay for it, but I want to do it as calmly and peacefully as possible."
But Barshop said Olivas acted violently, even though the defendant and the other robbers carried unloaded pellet guns during the robberies.
Barshop said Olivas participated in at least four of the robberies committed by the group. The prosecutor said that on at least two occasions, the group kidnaped managers of McDonald's restaurants from their homes, drove them to the restaurants after hours and forced them to open safes at gunpoint. Also, Olivas admitted handcuffing Robin Cox, the manager of the Sunland McDonald's, who was then forced to give the men the combination to the store's safe, Barshop said.
"Mr. Olivas states he went in there with a gun," Barshop said. "Why did he go in there with a gun but to cause terror to Ms. Cox?"
Olivas' lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Howard C. Waco, said the nine SIS officers who shot Olivas and his companions carried out an assassination. He said that according to police reports of the shooting, two of the officers shot two suspects at point-blank range from behind as they sat in the parked getaway car.
Waco also said that the officers could not have seen inside the vehicle because it had tinted windows that were fully rolled up at the time of the shooting.
But Major said the officers acted appropriately.
"What would the police be expected to do under those circumstances?" Major asked. "I don't think we can really place any blame on the police officers.
"You wouldn't point a gun at the police and expect them to stand there and say, 'Is that a real gun, sir?' " Major said.