At its first meeting since an off-duty officer was killed in Lincoln Heights and four people died in a San Fernando Valley shooting spree, the Los Angeles Police Commission paused Tuesday to honor those victims and the people slain in a pair of weekend mass shootings.
“So many victims of these senseless shootings,” Commission President Steve Soboroff said at the start of the meeting. “I saw today that one of the biggest back-to-school sellers is bullet-proof backpacks for kids, being sold in stores that also sell guns? Let’s take a moment of silence.”
In the past week, nearly three dozen people were killed in mass shootings at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and at an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio.
On July 25, four people died in a 12-hour crime spree allegedly carried out by Gerry Zaragoza in the San Fernando Valley. He allegedly killed his father and brother in their Canoga Park apartment, a female acquaintance at a North Hollywood gas station and a complete stranger on an Orange Line bus in Van Nuys.
And on July 27, off-duty LAPD Officer Juan Jose Diaz, 24, was fatally shot at a taco stand in Lincoln Heights, apparently after confronting a graffiti vandal in the area.
Speaking to the commission, LAPD Chief Michel Moore called Diaz’s death a “great loss.”
“It was a phone call no one wants to receive,” Moore said, noting that “from a young age, (Diaz) wanted to make a difference in the community he grew up in.”
Diaz was with his girlfriend and her two brothers at the Lincoln Heights taco stand when he confronted a tagger nearby. The person is believed to have left the area, then returned with friends and confronted the officer and his group.
Last week, three people were arrested in Riverside County in connection with the shooting: 23-year-old Francisco Talamantes, 20-year-old Cristian Facundo and 18-year-old Ashlynn Smith, all residents of Temecula who were booked for suspicion of murder with a gang allegation.
“It is a moment of grief that we continue to go through. I’ve spoken with the family members who are absolutely devastated,” Moore said. “We’ve also seen violence in this country of what people think is an immeasurable amount. However, it would be a false narrative to say that this is some new waterline. This organization is working with our retailers, with our business establishments and … places where people gather to have added presence.”
Funeral services for Diaz will take place at 9 a.m. Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
Moore said the LAPD is continuing its outreach efforts to Latino communities in Los Angeles, noting that the gunman in the recent mass shooting in El Paso had expressed anti-immigration views and referenced white supremacist literature.
The chief said the department will work to identify people who may be capable of mass shootings and try to get them to mental health services to try to prevent a recurrence of such events.
“If there are instances (where officers can help in) persuading or redirecting those energies to some other path, that’s what our desire is as law enforcement,” Moore said.
The LAPD has a Mental Evaluation Unit that addresses calls for mental health assistance. More information on the unit can be found at www.lapdonline.org.