Man Held Without Bail in Riot-Related Death : Crime: He is charged with murder after a friend was killed by a merchant who was protecting a store from looters. The suspect allegedly started the fatal gun battle.
A 27-year-old east Hollywood man who authorities say concocted a story about the circumstances surrounding a friend’s shooting death during the Los Angeles riots is being held without bail on a murder charge stemming from the man’s killing during a looting-inspired gun battle.
Juan Francisco Guevara, who pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles Municipal Court this week in the death of Juan A. Pineda, is scheduled for a June 5 preliminary hearing before Municipal Judge Marilyn L. Hoffman.
The homicide is only the fourth of 57 committed during the riots in which authorities have filed murder charges.
Police say Guevara told them that Pineda was shot by unknown gunmen as they drove down a street near Guevara’s residence at about 9:30 p.m. on April 30. Guevara and Pineda’s brother, Jose, quickly took the mid-Wilshire resident to County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds.
However, subsequent investigation turned up evidence that Pineda was actually struck by several bullets during a gunfight initiated by Guevara outside Auto Color Plus Inc., a car paint and supply shop near the intersection of Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards.
"(Guevara) gave a very credible story at first,” said Detective Supervisor Andrew Cicoria. “But when we checked, we found the people who actually did the shooting. You check the stories against the physical evidence, you recover the slugs and see the impact points where the firing came from and you find (Guevara) wasn’t telling the truth.”
While Guevara did not fire the fatal shots, he has been charged under a state law that holds that the person who provokes a fatal shooting is responsible for the death, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.
The gun battle occurred, authorities said, after Guevara, accompanied by the Pinedas, pulled up in front of the single-story retail shop in an old car. At the time, proprietor Bonifacio Bunuan, his son, Baltimore, and an employee were standing on the roof of the stucco supply shop to protect it from looters and arsonists, authorities said.
“There were fires only several blocks away and lots of looters passing by here,” said Bonifacio Bunuan in an interview. “We were afraid if this building burned, it would (explode and) level the whole block.”
When Guevara, who was driving, got out of the car, the shop employees asked him his business and suggested he leave. Guevara, prosecutors said, proceeded to take out a .38-caliber revolver and point it at Bonifacio Bunuan.
The shop owner responded, prosecutors said, by picking up a fire extinguisher and tossing it off the roof at Guevara.
Guevara shot three times in the direction of the trio on the roof, authorities said. Baltimore Bunuan then picked up a pistol and fired back, hitting the unarmed Pineda, seated in the rear of the car, in the back and legs.
When Guevara and Pineda’s brother reached County-USC Medical Center, “they attempted to drop the victim off--just throw him out and take off,” said Cicoria. “But security stopped them and held them.
“We were informed, responded and talked to them,” Cicoria said of Guevara and Jose Pineda. “They gave us a story saying they didn’t know what happened, that they were victims of the rioting themselves.”
Police found two weapons on the front seat of the car, but Guevara said he had only used one of them to fire into the air to scare off unknown assailants.
A large number of T-shirts, still on their hangers, were also found in the car. But Guevara had an excuse for the merchandise too, saying “he had traded some beer for them,” according to Cicoria.
Guevara, who had no police record, was allowed to remain free while the investigation proceeded. He was arrested late last week when the district attorney’s office agreed that Detective John Murphy had gathered enough evidence to file the murder charge.
Pineda, 20, had been employed as a cook at a Mexican restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard.
Murder charges have previously been filed in the shooting deaths of Long Beach resident Matthew Haines and Los Angeles residents Suzanne Morgan and Charles Orebo.
Orebo was struck by bullets fired by LAPD Officer Brian Liddy after Liddy had a gun pointed at him by Lavelle Williams, a friend of Orebo’s. Like Guevara, Williams has been charged with murder for provoking the death of his friend.