A gang member was convicted Monday of second-degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic firearm in a 2017 shooting at a Monrovia bar.
Jurors began deliberating Friday afternoon, and late Monday afternoon they found Jeremiah LaCroix, 33, guilty in the killing of 43-year-old Michael Lowe of Monrovia, who was gunned down just after midnight Dec. 2, 2017, at Gem City Grill in the 1000 block of East Olive Avenue.
LaCroix, who authorities said is known by the moniker “Ciego,” pulled out a gun and shot into a crowd of about 30 to 40 people after he and his older brother, William LaCroix Jr., 36, engaged in a verbal confrontation that escalated into a fight with several gang members inside the bar, according to sheriff’s investigators.
Johnny Trigueros and Robert Johnson, the victims named in the manslaughter and assault charges, were wounded.
The eight-woman, four-man panel also convicted LaCroix of unlawful possession of a firearm and found true gang, gun and great bodily injury allegations that make the defendant eligible for a longer prison term.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo set sentencing for Sept. 27.
Lowe’s family was in the courtroom when the verdicts were read and Deputy District Attorney Arthur Leahy said they would return to give victims’ impact statements in September.
Defense attorney James Bisnow acknowledged that his client shouldn’t have had a gun that night but was “using it legitimately” to defend himself.
“He was acting in self-defense,” Bisnow told jurors during his closing argument Friday, adding that his client “pursued his assailants until the danger was over” following a confrontation in which LaCroix’s glasses were knocked off inside the bar.
The defense attorney said there was no evidence that his client “deliberately provoked this incident.”
Deputy District Attorney Arthur Leahy disputed the defense’s contention that LaCroix fired in self-defense, telling jurors that the defendant — who has 10 gang tattoos — had “murder on his mind.”
Leahy contended that LaCroix left the bar, armed himself with a gun and then returned — an assertion the defense attorney denied.
The prosecutor called it “a stone-cold first-degree murder,” and cited surveillance video from inside the bar in urging the jury to convict the defendant as charged.
Seven other defendants, including LaCroix’s brother and father, were also charged in the case. All of them earlier pleaded no contest to lesser charges and all but one have been sentenced.
LaCroix Jr. and Erika Torres, 35, were arrested by Monrovia police as they fled from the restaurant and bar after the shooting and originally charged with murder, as was co-defendant Al Corro, 34. A judge dismissed the murder charges against them based on a change in state law on consequences for aiders and abettors.
LaCroix Jr. and Torres each ultimately pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon. LaCroix Jr. was sentenced to 11 years in prison and Torres is scheduled to be sentenced in July 2020, according to court records. Corro pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and acting as an accessory and was sentenced to five years prison time.
LaCroix turned himself in to authorities in Banning the day after the shooting. His father and mother, Ana Guerrero, were accused of helping their younger son avoid arrest. They both pleaded to one count of being an accessory after the fact and were sentenced to 156 days in jail and three years probation. Other defendants convicted as accessories included 31-year-old Jacob Webb and Vanessa Michelle Gomez, 28. Webb was sentenced to two years prison time and Gomez was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation.
The jury panel also acquitted LaCroix of attempted murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting of Ed Elizalde and Jeffrey Savarese at the bar that evening.
Authorities said it was a coincidence that members of two rival gangs wound up in the same location.
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