A man was charged Friday with a pair of stabbings about five hours apart, including the killing of a 17-year-old honor student who was slain while waiting for his mother outside an El Sereno restaurant.
David Anthony Zapata, 32, is set to be arraigned Friday afternoon in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on one count each of murder for last Friday’s stabbing of Xavier Chavarin and the attempted murder of Daniel Villalobos.
The case — in which Zapata could face a maximum of 40 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged — includes an allegation that he personally used a knife, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
At a news conference announcing the charges, District Attorney George GascÃ³n said the teenager was waiting for his mother at about 2:30 p.m. last Friday when Zapata allegedly approached him from behind and “without warning stabbed him.” The attack occurred in the 4500 block of Valley Boulevard.
Five hours later, Zapata allegedly approached Villalobos, 33, as he stood in a parking lot in the 5400 block of Valley Boulevard and stabbed him, according to the county’s top prosecutor.
“Luckily, Daniel was able to push his attacker off of him and run away,” GascÃ³n said, adding that the victim was “lucky to be alive.”
“We believe that we know who committed these heinous acts. We don’t know why. Perhaps we may never know why,” the district attorney said. “… It was so unnecessary.”
The district attorney said the investigation involves witnesses, surveillance video and physical evidence
Los Angeles police Lt. Ryan Rabbett called the attacks “senseless.”
“These were senseless attacks — no confrontation, no words exchanged, really just spontaneous,” the lieutenant said.
Police are still searching for a second suspect whose name has not been released. Rabbett said that there are “a lot of videos off of this” and that investigators know there was someone else who drove Zapata away from the first scene.
Zapata — who has an apparent history of mental health problems — was arrested about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday following an hourslong standoff at the home where he lives with family in the 2300 block of Westmont Drive in Alhambra.
During the lengthy standoff Wednesday with Zapata, police negotiators were able to speak to the suspect on the phone. LAPD Cmdr. German Hurtado told reporters that negotiators were eventually able to convince him to come out of the house, assuring him that he would not be harmed.
It was unclear if any of the man’s relatives helped convince him to surrender.
Zapata, wearing dark clothing and a baseball cap, exited the house and walked slowly toward the heavily armed officers, who spoke to him briefly, then handcuffed him and took him into custody.
He was being held on $2 million bail, according to jail records.
Hurtado said the suspect “has mental health prior incidents,” although he declined to elaborate. After the arrest, Hurtado said Alhambra police indicated that “he has been a problem in this neighborhood.”
On Thursday, Rabbett told reporters, “His mental health is no reason for what he did.”
Chavarin was a straight-A student who attended Woodrow Wilson High School and was supposed to graduate in June, according to his family. The teen’s father and grandmother were on hand for the announcement of the criminal case against Zapata.
The teen was waiting outside a King Torta restaurant moments before the suspect unexpectedly stabbed him in the back. His family said Chavarin later collapsed and died inside the restaurant while trying to get help.
A woman believed to be Chavarin’s mother showed up Wednesday morning at the scene of the standoff as the suspect was being arrested, but she was overcome with emotion, weeping into her hands as she was surrounded by reporters and cameras. The boy’s grandfather and stepfather were also on hand, according to reports from the scene.
On Tuesday, the LAPD had released a description of the suspect, along with surveillance video showing the suspect seconds before he attacked the teen in El Sereno.