An 18-year-old reputed gang member who allegedly opened fire inside a burger restaurant in a Harbor City strip mall, killing a gang target and unintentionally murdering the eatery’s longtime owner was facing capital murder charges Tuesday that could send him to death row.
Joey Alfred Mendoza, who wore some kind of mask during the attack, is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 16 at the Long Beach courthouse on two counts of murder stemming from the attack at Bob’s Hamburgers last Wednesday morning that killed Charalambos Antonelos, 61, of San Pedro, and Louis Garcia, 23, of Wilmington.
Detectives say Garcia was the target, and restaurant owner Antonelos was struck by stray gunfire.
The murder charges, filed Monday, include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder carried out to further the activities of the defendant’s “criminal street gang,” along with an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Mendoza, who was arrested a day after the shooting.
Mendoza allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired several shots after approaching Garcia as he stood next to the restaurant’s counter about 9:30 a.m. Garcia collapsed and died at the scene.
Antonelos, who had been working behind the counter, died at a hospital.
Witnesses and police said the gunman’s face was covered during the attack.
“Harbor detectives identified the suspect through surveillance video, witness statements and gang intelligence,” according to a statement released by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mendoza has remained behind bars since he was arrested about 1:45 a.m. last Thursday.
An employee said Bob’s Hamburgers had been operating for about 30 years, and distraught customers told reporters that the longtime owner was known for giving out free food to those in need.
—City News Service