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Slain pizza deliveryman saved money to send to his mother in Mexico

August 30, 2011 |  2:33 pm

A popular Silver Lake pizza deliveryman who was fatally shot while driving co-workers home was a popular employee who diligently saved his money to send to his mother in Mexico.

The slaying of Juan David Vasquez Loma was a "horrible and senseless killing," said Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district straddles the street corner where the shooting took place.

Authorities on Tuesday announced that a teenager who allegedly shot and killed Loma, 25, has been arrested and charged with murder.

Jose Beltran, an 18-year-old who lives with his mother about a mile from the scene of the shooting, had 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, LAPD officials said.

While Beltran was in custody, homicide detectives determined that he matched the description of the suspect in the Aug. 7 slaying of Loma, 25, who worked as a busboy at a popular Sunset Boulevard eatery and as a deliveryman for a Silver Lake pizza restaurant.

Investigators believe the two encountered each other around 5 a.m., just before the shooting, at the intersection of Micheltorena and Effie streets, said LAPD Det. Jose M. Carrillo.

Loma was driving a pair of co-workers home from work in his black, Chevrolet S-10 pickup, and passed Beltran at a stop sign. Beltran, driving a green Honda Civic, sped after Loma, following him through winding neighborhood streets and flashing what LAPD Capt. William A. Murphy said were possible gang signs.

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

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

None of the passengers in the truck were badly injured, but Loma was taken to a nearby hospital and kept on life support until his mother could travel from Mexico to see him. He died Aug. 14.

Loma worked at two Silver Lake-area restaurants: El Chavo, and Garage Pizza.

Loma “was loved where he worked,” said LaBonge. “He took his friends home and then on a neighborhood street in the hills of Silver Lake they passed the car that the suspect was driving and the suspect reacted in a violent manner .... What a horrible, senseless killing.”

Beltran, who the LAPD's Murphy called a gang “associate,” is being held on $1 million bail at the Men’s Central Jail downtown.

A female passenger was riding in Beltran's car at the time of the alleged shooting, but she is not considered a suspect.

Beltran was identified from photographs by the passengers in Loma’s car, said Carrillo, who noted that the suspect was raised in Silver Lake, attending junior high in the area and then John Marshall High School.

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-- Kurt Streeter

Click to visit The Times' interactive Homicide Report

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