Authorities have arrested a man in connection with an Aug. 14 drive-by shooting in Los Angeles County that killed two men, one of them a doctoral student at UC Irvine.
Jonathan Charles Johnson, 27, of Lancaster has been charged with two counts of murder and one count each of attempted murder and discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle at another person, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He was booked into jail with bail set at $2 million. Evidence suggests he has strong gang ties, sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred said at a news conference Wednesday.
The victims — Jose Flores Velazquez and Alfredo Carrera, both 24 — grew up on the street where they died, according to their families.
They were “not gang members by any stretch of the imagination,” Alfred said.
Flores Velazquez was a physics doctoral student at UCI.
Authorities have said the men parked an SUV in Carrera’s driveway at about 7 p.m. in the 1100 block of East 68th Street in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood and were saying goodbye to each other outside the car when a vehicle approached. A passenger pulled out a handgun and shots rang out, Alfred said.
Flores Velazquez died at the scene and Carrera was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. No weapon was found on the victims, authorities said.
A third man nearby also was shot as he shielded his child. He was hospitalized and later released, authorities said.
Deputies assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley station pulled Johnson over Friday morning after seeing the 2004 Nissan Maxima he was driving near Via Princessa and Sierra Highway, Alfred said. A license plate check connected the vehicle, which was captured on surveillance video near the crime scene, to the shooting, according to authorities.
Deputies detained Johnson and a female passenger. The woman was released after authorities determined she was not wanted in connection with the shooting.
Detectives have not recovered the weapon used in the attack and are continuing to look for other people who might have been involved, authorities said.
Officials said the victims didn’t know the people in the car and said a previous report of an argument before the shooting likely was 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.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500. Anonymous tips can be made by contacting Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477), using the mobile app “P3 Tips” or visiting lacrimestoppers.org.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Maya Lau and Daily Pilot staff writer Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.