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Gang associate pleads not guilty in slaying of pizza deliveryman

August 31, 2011 | 10:48 am

Jose Beltran An 18-year-old gang associate pleaded not guilty Wednesday to shooting a pizza deliveryman who worked two jobs to send money home to Mexico.

Jose Beltran is due back in court Sept. 15. His bail was increased Wednesday from $1 million to $3 million.

He faces more than 50 years to life in prison if convicted on all charges, prosecutors said.

Juan David Vasquez Loma, 25, was shot in the head while driving home after getting off work at a Silver Lake pizzeria.

Loma had been kept on life support for a week after the shooting so his mother in Mexico could see him a final time.

Beltran has been in jail since Aug. 19, when he was pulled over by a gang detail near downtown and cited for a traffic violation and illegal possession of a handgun.

While Beltran was in custody, homicide detectives determined he matched the description of the suspect in the Aug. 7 slaying of Loma, who worked as a busboy at a popular Sunset Boulevard eatery and as a deliveryman for a pizza restaurant.

Investigators believe the two encountered each other about 5 a.m. as Loma was driving two co-workers home and passed Beltran at a stop sign. Beltran sped after Loma, following him through winding neighborhood streets and flashing possible gang signs.

Loma apparently slowed enough to let Beltran pass, waving the teenager ahead with his hand, said investigators, who said there was a possibility that Beltran could have misinterpreted the wave as a gang sign.

Instead of passing, police said Beltran maneuvered his car alongside the pickup in the 1400 block of Silver Lake Boulevard and fired a single shot from a handgun, striking Loma.

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-- Kurt Streeter

Photo: Jose Beltran is arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday with public defender Jean F. Burke. Beltran pleaded not guilty to shooting a pizza deliveryman. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Click to visit The Times' interactive Homicide Report

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