An 18-year-old reputed gang member pleaded not guilty Wednesday to double murder charges stemming from a shooting at a burger restaurant in a Harbor City strip mall that left two people dead, including the longtime owner of the eatery.
Joey Alfred Mendoza is charged with two counts of murder stemming from the Oct. 12 shooting at Bob’s Hamburgers that killed Charalambos Antonelos, 61, of San Pedro, and Louis Garcia, 23, of Wilmington.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while the defendant was “an active participant in a criminal street gang and the murder was carried out to further the activities of the criminal street gang,” along with an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun during the crime.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Mendoza, who was arrested a day after the shooting and remains jailed without bail.
Mendoza allegedly fired several shots from a handgun after approaching Garcia as he stood next to the restaurant’s counter. Mendoza collapsed and died at the scene.
Antonelos, the eatery’s owner, had been working behind the counter and was struck by stray gunfire, police said. He died at a hospital.
The alleged gunman, whose face was covered during the attack, was identified through surveillance video, witness statements and “gang intelligence,” according to a statement released by the Los Angeles Police Department.
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
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