Two alleged gang members pleaded not guilty Wednesday in connection with the killing of a 19-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine who was found shot inside his vehicle in South Los Angeles.
Oscar Aguilar, 26, and Esau Rios, 28, are charged with murder for the Sept. 16 shooting of Lance Cpl. Carlos Segovia-Lopez.
The criminal complaint alleges that Aguilar personally and intentionally discharged a handgun, and that the killing was committed in association with or for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Aguilar — who allegedly has a string of prior convictions — is additionally charged with one count each of possession of a firearm by a felon and dissuading a witness by force or threat.
Segovia-Lopez was on leave from Camp Pendleton in San Diego County when he allegedly exchanged words with the defendants on Sept. 16, according to Los Angeles County prosecutors.
He was found shortly after 11:30 that night, covered in blood and slumped over the steering wheel of a Dodge Charger in the 2100 block of 31st Street. He was taken off life support three days later after doctors informed the family that he could not be saved.
Los Angeles police said after the shooting that Segovia-Lopez was on his cell phone and that he was driving on 31st Street when he was shot, causing him to lose control of his car and crash into a parked vehicle. Police have a recording of the call, and gunshots can be heard before the phone goes dead, according to LAPD Capt. Peter Whittingham.
A week after Segovia-Lopez was shot, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, apprehension and conviction of whoever was responsible for his killing. It is not clear whether the reward played any role in the two being charged.
Aguilar and Rios were arrested Nov. 10 by Los Angeles police, according to jail records. Aguilar could face up to 167 years to life in state prison if convicted, while Rios could face up to 50 years to life behind bars, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A third man, Ricky Valente, 18, is charged with being an accessory after the fact with knowledge of the crime, and could face up to seven years in state prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Valente also pleaded not guilty, and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Aguilar is jailed in lieu of $4.2 million bail, while Rios is being held on $3 million bail.
The three men are due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Jan. 5, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require them to stand trial.
At an Oct. 5 memorial service for Segovia-Lopez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti praised him for his work with a local program to assist the homeless.
“For Carlos, that was not some class of other people. That was his brother,” Garcetti said.
“At a moment when we want to denigrate each other because of where we come from, what uniforms we serve, or we think we know people before we know them, let us all stop and learn and find who we are — the connections that unite us, not the ones that divide us,” Garcetti said. “Let us make the passing of Carlos something that bring us together in service and love and unity. At the end of our days we’re left with two things: Who did we know and what did we do. By that measure, Carlos, you left and led the most blessed of lives.”
—City News Service