A Lancaster man was behind bars Wednesday in connection with the shooting deaths of two longtime friends in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where they grew up and the wounding of a man who was shielding his child from harm after the gunfire erupted.
Jonathan Charles Johnson was arrested Friday, two days after Jose Flores Velazquez and Alfredo Carrera, both 24, were gunned down in the 1100 block of East 68th Street, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday.
Johnson, 27, is jailed without bail while awaiting arraignment Sept. 3 at the Norwalk courthouse on two counts of murder and one count each of attempted murder and shooting from a motor vehicle.
The charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder to further the activities of a criminal street gang, along with allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.
Flores Velazquez and Carrera had grown up together six houses apart on the street where they were shot. Flores Velazquez was a physics doctoral student at UC Irvine and had his sights set on a job at NASA. Carrera was about to become a first-time father.
They were standing near a parked SUV about 7 p.m. when a vehicle pulled up and a passenger opened fire. The third man was shot a short distance away as the car sped off.
Flores Velazquez died at the scene, and Carrera was pronounced dead at a hospital.
At about 8:30 a.m. last Friday, patrol deputies from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station spotted the 2004 blue Nissan Maxima believed used in the crime and made a traffic stop at the corner of Via Princessa and Sierra Highway in Canyon Country.
Deputies arrested Johnson, who was behind the wheel of the Maxima, and detained his 25-year-old female passenger, who was later released without being charged, according to the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred said investigators believe there are additional suspects, and he asked the public to come forward if anyone interacted with people inside the Nissan in the Florence-Firestone area. The car’s license number is 5FUP228, and its rear trunk area had body damage.
The victims didn’t know the people in the car, according to investigators, who have not determined a motive for the slayings and said a previous report of an argument before the shooting likely was incorrect.
“It appears the car stopped for a moment,” Alfred told the Los Angeles Times. “There may have been some words. There was some yelling, but it may have been between the suspects.”
The gun, a semiautomatic pistol, has not been recovered.
The deaths of Flores Velazquez and Carrera shocked community members, friends and family who remember the two as hardworking family men. Friends created fundraising campaigns for the men’s families, collecting more than $40,000 total so far.
“Terrible. It’s horrible,” Alfred said. “These are hardworking people who have worked so long to better their lives just to become subjects of random violence.”
Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
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