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Slaying Suspect Found Dead in Police Search

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A man suspected of killing a man in a freeway shooting apparently committed suicide early Sunday after police surrounded an apartment here and demanded that he and four companions surrender, authorities said.

Investigators believe that the dead suspect, whose name was withheld pending notification of his family, had shot and killed a Chino man at 11:15 p.m. Saturday during an altercation between passengers of two cars in West Covina, said Sgt. Mark Dettor of the West Covina Police Department.

Ryan Biteranta, 19, was shot to death while driving his car near Pacific Avenue on Interstate 10 by someone in a passing car, Dettor said.

One of Biteranta’s two passengers managed to guide the car off the freeway and took him to Queen of the Valley Hospital, where he died, Dettor said.

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A witness to the shooting gave police the license number of the suspects’ car, which was traced to an apartment complex at 2710 Associated Road in Fullerton on Sunday morning, Dettor said.

“We got an address by tracking a license plate, and when our detectives got down there, lo and behold, there was the Honda,” Dettor said. About a dozen officers and investigators from Fullerton and West Covina surrounded the two-story apartment at 7:30 a.m., Dettor said.

They woke and evacuated nearby residents before phoning the apartment to tell the suspects they were surrounded, police said.

One by one, three men filed out of the apartment, their hands high above their heads as they walked down an exterior staircase toward police. Before the fourth man emerged, police heard a gunshot inside the apartment.

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“That got our attention, that’s for sure,” Fullerton Police Sgt. Kevin Hamilton said.

After the fourth suspect emerged and was cuffed, he told police that the fifth man inside had shot himself.

“He didn’t know if he was dead or alive, but he said there was nobody else in the apartment,” Hamilton said. “We had to decide what to do next. We were pretty confident [the fourth suspect] was telling the truth, and we decided to make an entry.”

About 8:45 a.m., Hamilton and three other officers entered the apartment and found the body of the fifth suspect with a gunshot wound to the head. A handgun was nearby.

The four other suspects were arrested and were being held on suspicion of murder in the freeway shooting “at least for the time being,” Dettor said. They were identified as Michael O’Neill, 21, of Fullerton; Michael Lepage, 20, of Fullerton; George Buckmier, 21, of Fullerton; and Christopher Majeske, 18, of Perris.

O’Neill, Lepage and Buckmier live at the apartment, police said. Inside the apartment, police found a .357 magnum handgun and a .380 semiautomatic pistol, Dettor said.

The man who apparently committed suicide did not live at the apartment, police said.

“Common sense and all of our suspicions say the guy who committed suicide probably was the [freeway] shooter, but we are still trying to verify that,” Dettor said.

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Police are still trying to determine what prompted the freeway shooting.

“We are looking for gang affiliations, or maybe somebody looked at somebody wrong,” Dettor said.


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