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L.A. deputy charged in slaying, faces 75-year term if convicted

November 15, 2012 |  5:23 pm

A veteran L.A. County sheriff's deputy faces up to 75 years in prison if convicted on all charges filed Thursday in connection with a homicide earlier this year.

He is accused of murder in the off-duty slaying of a former neighbor who had a fight with his son near the family home in Sylmar.

Francisco Gamez, 41, has been with the department for 17 years and was last working as a station detective in West Hollywood. He was arrested Wednesday after a lengthy LAPD investigation.

He is charged with the June 17 murder of Armando Casillas, attempted murder and discharging a weapon from an occupied vehicle, as well as an allegation that he personally used a firearm.

Casillas and Gamez's 20-year-old son were involved in an altercation on Beaver Street about 10 p.m. that night. After the fight, the son called Gamez, who allegedly drove to the scene and confronted Casillas, 38, and another man. After an argument Gamez allegedly opened fire on the two men. 

Gamez, while still seated in a 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 just before midnight. Gamez was relieved of duty in July after LAPD detectives identified him as a suspect in the killing. Gamez, who now lives in San Fernando, had for several years lived near the victim.

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 for comment.

At the time of the killing, authorities said the victim got into an argument with an unknown person. At some point, the other person left the area only to return and shoot Casillas, authorities said then. Now they are saying the shooter was not the same person who initially got into the argument.

LAPD officers arrested Gamez on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony Wednesday around lunchtime. He was booked into the LAPD's 77th Street station in lieu of $4-million bail, officials said. 

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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