The prosecution announced Tuesday it won’t seek the death penalty against two men charged with the slaying of a Downey police officer who was shot once in the face while sitting in his BMW in a parking lot near the police station.
Steven Knott, 21, and Jeremy Anthony Alvarez, 24, could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the Nov. 18, 2015, killing of Ricardo Galvez.
Knott and Alvarez, who are half-brothers, were ordered to stand trial in 2017 after a five-day hearing before Superior Court Judge Roger Ito in Norwalk.
Alvarez, the alleged getaway driver, was arrested after a wild pursuit that was caught on dash-camera video recorded from the patrol car of a Downey police officer who heard the gunshot in the area of the parking lot and began chasing the Nissan Altima.
Knott and a 16-year-old boy were arrested the next morning. The teenager subsequently admitted a Juvenile Court petition charging him with Galvez’s murder and attempted robbery and a robbery count involving another man the same day, and is facing confinement in a state juvenile facility until he is 25.
Investigators recovered a handgun that was allegedly thrown out of the vehicle.
DNA testing and fingerprint analysis linked Knott to the weapon, according to stipulations agreed to by the prosecution and the defense at the hearing in 2017.
Prosecutors say ballistics tests determined that the gun had been used to kill the 29-year-old officer, who had served two tours of duty — one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan — in the Marine Corps prior to becoming a police officer.
In emotional testimony in September 2017, Downey Police Lt. Brian Baker said he walked out to the parking lot to investigate what might have happened after speaking on the phone with Officer Justin Prentice, who had chased the light-colored Altima to Montebello.
The police lieutenant said he did not initially recognize Galvez or his car, and only realized that the victim was his colleague after looking through the vehicle’s windshield.
“That’s when I recognized it was Ricky. When I recognized him, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Baker said of the former Marine, who had been on the police force for five years.
“Sorry,” Baker said at one point as he grew emotional recounting the details of the discovery of Galvez’s body.
Baker said he saw the BMW running and noticed a bullet hole in the driver’s side window, then directed a sergeant to break the passenger window of the locked car. The sergeant determined that the officer was dead, and a check of the vehicle’s registration confirmed the car belonged to Galvez, Baker said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Biddle testified that the suspects’ attempt to rob Galvan “wasn’t completed. They didn’t get anything inside the car. The gun went off and they fled.”
When he was shown a still photo from surveillance camera footage in the parking lot, the teenager subsequently admitted that he and Knott had approached the BMW — one from each side — while Alvarez remained inside the Nissan Altima, Biddle testified.
The teenager subsequently was tape-recorded in jailhouse conversations in which he admitted being involved in the crime and saying that the three formulated a plan to rob Galvez, according to the sheriff’s sergeant. The teenager said he and Knott were wearing masks made of pieces of cloth over their faces, the sheriff’s sergeant testified.
Under cross-examination, Biddle said the teenager claimed the gun allegedly wielded by Knott had gone off accidentally.
Knott and Alvarez are also charged with three other robberies the same day. The two and Alvarez’s girlfriend, Rebecca Ustrell, 31, are also charged with the attempted murder of a man in Montebello on Oct. 18, 2015.
Knott is also charged with one count of shooting at an inhabited dwelling in September 2015.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: