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Suspect in police officer slaying arrested in Tijuana

Gary Moskowitz and Ryan Carter

Investigators knew for several days that the man they believe killed

Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka had fled south of the border.

“We had reason to believe that was possible, but we didn’t want

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him to know we had reason to believe that,” Burbank Police Sgt.

William Berry said.

Mexican law-enforcement officials found 19-year-old David A.

Garcia at a home in a residential area of Tijuana on Thursday

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afternoon, Burbank Police Chief Thomas Hoefel announced that night

during a news conference in front of Burbank Police and Fire

headquarters.

Police from several agencies had been searching for Garcia since

Nov. 15, when he and Ramon Aranda, 25, allegedly opened fire on

Pavelka, 26, and Officer Gregory Campbell, 41. The officers were shot

after approaching Garcia and Aranda as they sat inside a 1999

Cadillac Escalade in the north parking lot of the Ramada Inn, 2900 N.

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San Fernando Blvd. Campbell approached the car when he saw it had

paper license plates and no visible registration, and called for

backup, to which Pavelka responded.

Pavelka died shortly after the gun battle. Campbell remained

hospitalized Friday, recovering from wounds to his neck and stomach.

He watched the news conference on television from his hospital bed,

Berry said. Aranda died at the scene after being shot by the

officers.

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Garcia was captured by Mexican authorities, who turned him over to

United States marshals at the U.S. border Thursday afternoon. Federal

authorities then released Garcia into Burbank Police custody, Hoefel

said.

Police declined to give specifics about what Garcia was doing when

arrested, but Berry said investigators received information that

several gang members and associates helped Garcia escape to Mexico.

More than 60 people have been arrested in connection with the

investigation into the first fatal shooting of a Burbank officer in

more than 80 years.

Garcia had been staying in Tijuana for several days, it was

reported. Following leads, a task force led by U.S. marshals began

trying to find him there, Berry said.

But the arrest does not mean the investigation is over, police

said.

“We expect more arrests,” Berry said. “Just because he is in

custody, it doesn’t mean we will forget about the people who helped

him.”

Garcia, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to be

arraigned Tuesday morning in Burbank Superior Court. A hearing for

his twin brother, James, is scheduled for Monday on weapons

possession charges and allegations that he helped his brother escape.

Pavelka’s mother, Billie Sue, and father, Michael -- along with

his girlfriend, Jessica DiCristina, brother, Nick, and other family

members -- attended Thursday’s news conference. Pavelka’s mother’s

face remained stern during the conference. His father’s eyes were

glassy as he stepped in front of the cameras to speak.

“We, as a family, have been through quite a lot,” said Michael

Pavelka, a veteran Los Angeles Police detective.

“We are pleased that [Garcia] is in custody, and we are here to

say thank you to all those who worked so hard to find him. We’ve been

waiting for this moment. It is a sense of relief,” Michael Pavelka

said.

Garcia will be charged with murder and attempted murder and could

also be charged with possession of firearms and narcotics, Los

Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley announced during the press

conference.

“When it comes to murdering one of our Burbank Police officers, we

don’t forgive, and we don’t forget,” Cooley said Thursday.

LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell described all of the

law-enforcement officers who worked to find Garcia and bring him into

custody as “one body, working together.”

“The message is very clear,” McDonnell said Thursday. “It doesn’t

matter where you go after doing something like this, we will get

you.”

Berry said Friday was a quiet day at Burbank headquarters.

“At this point, we are just recovering,” he said.

Berry did not know if any of the $110,000 in reward money offered

for information in the case would be dispersed.


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