Father and son arrested in connection with 3 shooting deaths in East Los Angeles
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives on Thursday morning arrested a father and son in connection with three killings committed in East Los Angeles between 2014 and 2018.
Deputies from the Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT team served a search warrant before dawn at a home in the 300 block of Humphreys Avenue and arrested Anthony Velasquez, 31, and Manuel Velasquez, 51, according to Lt. Hugo Reynaga.
Anthony Velasquez was arrested on suspicion of murder and his father on suspicion of being an accessory to murder, Reynaga said.
The younger Velasquez is suspected of shooting to death Jesus Avalos, Eduardo Robles and Amanda Nicole Lopez. Reynaga said Anthony Velasquez had a “friendship” with all three, and while the lieutenant declined to discuss their ties in detail, he said: “It seems to us that at some point, their relationships went awry.” Avalos, Robles and Lopez were all killed in a roughly two-mile radius in East Los Angeles.
Detectives suspect that Manuel Velasquez was at the scene of all three killings and acted as a getaway driver in at least one of them, Reynaga said, adding that it was “very unusual” to see a father and son arrested on charges of committing murder together. “Usually fathers protect their kids — well, I guess he protected Anthony from getting arrested,” he said.
Avalos, 33, was found shot to death in the early morning hours of Feb. 11, 2014. His blue 1995 Toyota 4-Runner was parked against traffic on Telegraph Road with its hood up, as if to jump-start another car. Avalos was sitting in the driver’s seat, still wearing his seatbelt, the shards of the shattered driver’s side window in his lap. He had been shot in the head and the chest.
Robles, 38, was killed a year later. He was hanging out with friends in a parking lot behind an apartment complex on Eagle Street on the evening of July 6, 2015, when a man — whom detectives suspect to be Anthony Velasquez — climbed over a gate and confronted him. The two got into a fight, and after it broke up, the man climbed back over the gate, crossed the street to where Robles’ white GMC Jimmy SUV was parked and slashed its tires.
Investigators say it was Anthony Velasquez who slashed Robles’ tires before driving off. Velasquez returned about five minutes later with a gun and opened fire through the gate, according to detectives. Robles collapsed on the asphalt, shot in the head and the back.
Lopez, 27, was killed in the early morning hours of April 22, 2018. She was living in a tent, one of many pitched in the complex of government buildings on 3rd Street in East Los Angeles, when a Chrysler PT Cruiser pulled to a stop nearby. A man, now identified as Anthony Velasquez, stepped out of the car, wearing a ski mask.
He walked through the plaza, peering into several tents, before arriving at Lopez’s, which was pitched in the entryway of a brick building that housed a field office for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. He unzipped the tent, drew a gun and fired into it, then fled to the waiting car, according to detectives.
Detectives have determined that Manuel Velasquez once owned a PT Cruiser, and they believe he was driving the car that morning, Reynaga said. Deputies were searching the Velasquezes’ home Thursday morning for weapons; a handgun was used in the first two killings, and a shotgun in the third, Reynaga said.
The Sheriff’s Department held a news conference in August, publishing sketches of the suspects and announcing an $80,000 reward for information sponsored by the Board of Supervisors.
The day of the conference, detectives received several calls from witnesses with “firsthand knowledge” of the homicides, Reynaga said. Others called with information about the PT Cruiser and to identify the people depicted in the sketches. Many of the tipsters knew Anthony and Manuel Velasquez personally and for years had been reluctant to speak with the authorities, Reynaga said.
“There’s always a fear for witnesses to come forward and tell the police what they know of a murder,” he said.
Anthony and Manuel Velasquez are expected to be arraigned in court on Monday, Reynaga said.
Earlier this month, deputies went up and down Humphreys Avenue, passing out fliers with sketches of the suspects and photographs of a PT Cruiser, according to a neighbor who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal.
“I didn’t pay any attention,” said the neighbor, who found the fliers on his car and stuffed in his mailbox. He didn’t recognize the faces depicted in the sketches as his neighbors of some 20 years.
He could not recall ever speaking with the Velasquezes, although they have lived in their small home, enclosed with a fence bearing signs that warn of security cameras and guard dogs, at least as long as he has. On their street, people are generally friendly, he said, “but we don’t get too close.”
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