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Witnesses chase skid row slaying suspect to police officer [Updated]

November 23, 2009 |  8:45 pm

A woman who allegedly gunned down another woman on Los Angeles' skid row was arrested today after witnesses chased her into the arms of a police officer, authorities said.

Michelle Cato, 26, ran into the Los Angeles Police Department officer as she tried to escape from the witnesses and the dead woman's son. The officer was across the street from the LAPD's Central Division station when he grabbed Cato, police said.Murder Scene

Cato allegedly shot the 38-year-old victim shortly before 4 p.m. in the 500 block of San Julian Street.

"This appears to be a cold-blooded shooting," said Lt. Paul Vernon, commander of the station's detective unit. "The suspect shot this woman in full view of the victim's 23-year-old son and dozens of bystanders."

[Updated 10:46 p.m.: The victim was identified as Sheila Zaldana, 46, of South Los Angeles, Vernon said.]

The victim and her son were not residents of skid row, police said.

The witnesses chased the woman south on San Julian and then followed her as she fled westbound on 6th Street. Witnesses directed detectives to a small-caliber gun, which was found on the sidewalk where Cato had fled, according to police.

Cato, who is on parole for a prior narcotics conviction, was booked on suspicion of murder, police said.

Vernon said it was the fifth slaying recorded downtown this year, but added that homicides have dropped dramatically from previous years.

-- Robert J. Lopez