Prosecutors said Thursday that three men and a woman suspected of participating in the theft and murder of an off-duty police officer in Los Angeles have been charged with federal racketeering.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central California said the four are charged with violent crimes for aiding extortion in the murder of Officer Fernando Arroyos, who was fatally shot on Monday.
The US Attorney’s Office said three of them were allegedly members of the Florentine 13 gang. The fourth said she is a friend.
Federal prosecutors, which are unusual in a domestic murder case, can issue death sentences and minimum sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, because Arroyos was allegedly murdered while committing a burglary.
The defendants in Federal Court are: Luis Alfredo de la Rosa Rios, 29; Ernesto Cisneros, 22 years old; Jesse Contreras, 34 years old; and Hailey Marie Grisham, 18, a girlfriend of Rios, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The US Attorney’s office said the four were in a vehicle involved in the crime and were present during the robbery and murder.
Rios and Cisneros are accused of confronting Arroyos, identified in court documents as “FA,” and his girlfriend on East 87th Street on Monday night for a robbery.
“At some point after Cisneros removed the victim’s chains, the FA victim and the two defendants exchanged fire,” according to a federal court filing. “The FA victim ran towards an alley where the two suspects collapsed and escaped.”
Los Angeles County sheriffs found Cisneros, who was shot, about two miles away, officials said.
A video clip shows him helping out from the black van used in the crime following the shooting, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.
It is alleged that Rios and Cisneros told detectives after their arrest that they were wandering around looking for people to rob, and decided to rob Arroyos because they liked his chains, according to FBI testimony.
The 16-page affidavit said investigators obtained a security video showing part of the confrontation.
It was not immediately clear Thursday evening whether any of the defendants had lawyers.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said the suspects are expected to be transferred to federal custody on Friday.
Angels Police Department Chief Michael Moore described the killing as an act of “ferocious and senseless violence.” He said Arroyos was a hero and that he was grateful that the case was being sued federally.
“That’s appropriate,” Moore said at a Thursday evening news conference. “I am grateful to the US Attorney for stepping in and bringing the full weight of the government against this gang.”
Moore said the gang has plagued parts of the Los Angeles area for decades, and that federal racketeering laws are designed to fight organized gangs. He said police officers in the department the gang operates in have arrested 18 armed gang members in the past year.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has described Florencia 13, also known as the F13, as a “big, multigenerational street gang” that has been the subject of two major racketeering lawsuits.
Officials are still looking for the black bi-fold wallet and silver chains taken from Arroyos. One of the chains has a sword necklace. Court documents say the wallet was thrown from the truck window after the shooting.
“These two chains and a wallet mean, I’m sure, the world to the family,” Moore said.