A man suspected of killing two childhood friends in a drive-by shooting last week has been arrested in connection with the deaths, sheriff’s officials announced Wednesday morning.
Jonathan Charles Johnson, 26, of Lancaster was charged this week with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of shooting from a vehicle, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The shooting Aug. 14 killed boyhood friends Jose Antonio Flores Velazquez, 23, and Alfredo Carrera, 24, who were standing outside Carrera’s home in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood of South Los Angeles when they were gunned down. A third man farther down the road also was shot as he shielded his child. He was hospitalized and later released, authorities said.
Flores Velazquez was a doctoral student at UC Irvine who researched galaxy formations. Carrera was a father-to-be, expecting a son in September, family members said. Flores Velazquez had stopped by his friend’s home with a baby shower gift, a physics book for children.
Johnson was arrested Friday when deputies from the Santa Clarita sheriff’s station spotted a blue 2004 Nissan Maxima near Via Princessa and Sierra Highway in Canyon Country, said Lt. Derrick Alfred. Authorities confirmed the vehicle was linked to the Aug. 14 slayings.
Deputies detained Johnson and a female passenger during a traffic stop. The woman was released after authorities determined she was not wanted in connection with the drive-by shootings.
Detectives think there are additional suspects in the shootings, though, and are asking the public to come forward if anyone interacted with people inside the Nissan in the Florence-Firestone area. The car’s plate is 5FUP228, and its rear trunk area had body damage.
Officials say the victims didn’t know the people in the car and said a previous report of an argument before the shooting was probably incorrect.
“It appears the car stopped for a moment,” Alfred said. “There may have been some words. There was some yelling, but it may have been between the suspects.”
Detectives do not have a motive in the slayings. The gun, a semiautomatic pistol, hasn’t been recovered.
The deaths of Flores Velazquez and Carrera shocked community members, friends and family who remember the two as hardworking family men. Friends created fundraising campaigns for the men’s families, collecting more than $40,000 total.
“Terrible. It’s horrible,” Alfred said. “These are hardworking people who have worked so long to better their lives just to become subjects of random violence.”