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Sheriff's deputy charged with murder brought handcuffed to court

November 15, 2012 |  4:18 pm

A veteran L.A. County sheriff's deputy stood behind a glass wall in a downtown courtroom Thursday afternoon, facing away from the judge and crowd and partially obstructed by his attorney.

Francisco Gamez, 41, was arrested Wednesday and charged with murdering a neighbor who had a fight with his son outside the family home in Sylmar. Gamez was off-duty at the time.

Although Gamez was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, his attorney, Charles Windon, requested that the plea proceeding be continued until Dec. 12.

Hands cuffed and wearing a white T-shirt, Gamez sat in the far corner of a defendant's box in the courtoom as he waited for his case to be called. He kept his head low, never facing Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba.

But even as the 17-year Sheriff's Department veteran stood shielded from the few dozen people in the courtroom, sheriff's deputies working in the courthouse took turns glancing over at the defendant box to see if they knew him.

]"Nah, I don't recognize him," said one deputy who stopped by the courtroom for a glance.

Gamez is charged with the June 17 slaying of Armando Casillas.

Casillas and Gamez's 20-year-old son had allegedly been involved in an altercation. After the fight, the son called Gamez, who allegedly drove to the scene and confronted Casillas, 38, and another man, authorities said. After the verbal argument Gamez allegedly opened fire on the two men. 

Gamez, while still seated in the car, fired two shots, hitting Casillas and narrowly missing another man, prosecutors said. Gamez then allegedly fled the scene.

Casillas, 38, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Gamez was relieved of duty in July after LAPD detectives identified him as a suspect in the killing. 

In August, a person who identified himself as the victim's brother commented on the Los Angeles Times' website that he suspected a deputy was responsible.

“We think he is a L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF,” the comment stated. “The reason we think he is a Sheriff is that he shouted to my Brother “L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF WHERE YOU FROM” as if the sheriff was in a gang.”

The person who wrote the comment could not be reached.

LAPD officers arrested Gamez on Wednesday on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and use of a firearm. He is being held on $4-million bail.  

Casillas’ relatives said the family was grateful for the arrest, but they were not prepared to discuss the events that led to the fatal shooting.

In a statement, Sheriff Lee Baca called the attack “deeply disturbing.”

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-- Wesley Lowery, Robert Faturechi, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

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