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‘He seemed like a confused individual’

Jackson Bell

When Mark Wilson met David A. Garcia, he had no idea that the quiet

teenager who rented Room 331 would become Burbank’s most wanted man.

Wilson, general manager of the Ramada Inn at 2900 N. San Fernando

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Blvd., called Garcia into his office about three weeks ago because he

was a day late on his rent.

“He apologized for falling behind, paid for the night and went

back to his room,” Wilson recalled this week. “But he seemed like a

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confused individual. Not like he was using drugs, but that he just

wasn’t grasping what I told him.”

Garcia, 19, has eluded authorities since a shootout Nov. 15 in the

hotel’s north parking lot that left Burbank Police Officer Matthew

Pavelka dead and fellow officer Gregory Campbell critically wounded.

Police have not said if Garcia was dealing drugs on the night of

the shooting, but the area surrounding the hotel is known for drug

sales and car theft. Authorities found 3 ounces of methamphetamine in

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the sport utility vehicle Garcia abandoned during his getaway.

Wilson said neither he nor his staff had any reason to suspect

Garcia of any illegal activity during his stay at the hotel, where he

paid $69 a day for a single room. Garcia, he added, kept a low

profile, acted politely and was rarely seen around the building.

“We had no complaints [about him] from any of the guests, because

he didn’t disturb anyone,” Wilson said. “He was very low-key and

unobtrusive during his time here.”

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The Sun Valley teenager spent 34 days at the hotel before the

shooting, and, according to Wilson, paid his room fee with cash every

day -- a total of $2,346. The room was rented to Garcia, not Ramon

Aranda, Garcia’s accomplice who died in the gunfight, and Aranda was

not seen staying at the hotel, Wilson said.

Garcia blended in with other long-term occupants at the hotel,

where 15% of business comes from professionals staying in the city

for work or people who are between permanent residences, Wilson said.

He added that the hotel’s convenient access to the Golden State (5)

Freeway makes it attractive to a wide variety of customers.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Burbank Police Officer Edgar

Penaranda said. “The hotel brings in clientele who are honest and

need a place to stay while driving on the most-traveled freeway in

California, but bad characters also use it as an opportunity [for

criminal activity].”

Penaranda said the area -- bordered by Buena Vista Street, Grismer

Avenue and Glenoaks and San Fernando boulevards -- also attracts drug

dealers and users because it’s primarily an industrial area with poor

street lighting and parking lots that are empty at night. At least

one arrest is made there every night, he said.

Steve Smuck, an engineer at Deltron Engineering on North San

Fernando Boulevard across from the hotel, was surprised to hear about

Pavelka’s death because he always thought the area was safe.

“I’ve eaten [at the hotel restaurant] twice for lunch and once for

dinner, and I’ve never seen anyone loitering there,” Smuck said.

“It’s always pretty quiet.”


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