Man wanted in 1989 killing arrested after traffic stop for broken headlight


Byron Contreras had been on the run for 25 years, a suspect in the shooting death of a rival gang member. He was considered one of Los Angeles’ most wanted fugitives.

But that all came to an end after he was stopped Thursday for having a broken headlight in Salinas, more than 300 miles to the north.

California Highway Patrol officers noticed Contreras’ headlight wasn’t working properly. During the stop, they arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs, Officer Oscar Loza said.


At the time, they weren’t aware that Contreras, 42, was wanted on suspicion of murder in Los Angeles. He had assumed different identities and had been issued various tickets under those names, Loza said.

On Thursday, Contreras told CHP officers that his name was Agustin Alejo and that he lived in Castroville, Calif. It wasn’t until he was booked into the Monterey County jail that authorities discovered his true identity.

Contreras’ fingerprints linked him to an arrest warrant for the 1989 murder.

“This stop highlights the dangers of routine traffic stops. You never know what or who you are going to encounter,” Loza said.

At the time of the slaying, Contreras was 16 and a member of the Hollywood-area gang known as the Magician’s Club.

According to police, he and four other gang members came upon two people from a rival gang who were riding their bicycles at Oxford Avenue and Clinton Street in Hollywood. While inside a car, Contreras’ group flashed gang signs and fired shots.

When one of the two rival gang members fell to the ground, Contreras walked up to the victim and fired additional shots, police said.


Contreras’ alleged accomplices were arrested after the shooting, but he escaped. He’ll be extradited to Los Angeles County to face murder charges, CHP officials said.

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