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Friday
Apr222011

California Gang Member's Tattoo of Murder Scene Leads to Crime Conviction

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departmen(LOS ANGELES) -- Authorities relied on a chest tattoo that depicted the murder scene to apprehend and convict a California gang member for a deadly shooting.

Anthony Garcia, 25, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder for the 2004 shooting at a liquor store in Pico Rivera. He could face life in prison for the crime when he is sentenced next month.

Garcia had avoided arrest for four years until he was picked up by police for driving with a suspended license in 2008. Because Garcia appeared to be an active member of the Rivera-13 gang, police snapped pictures of his tattoos, along with his mugshot.

Det. Sgt. Kevin Lloyd was looking through pictures of gang members' tattoos for leads on another crime when one image looked eerily familiar. Lloyd had worked as a sergeant at the Pico Rivera Sheriff's Station when the murder happened Jan. 23, 2004, at Mr. Ed's Liquor store.

Lloyd followed his hunch, driving to the liquor store named on the tattoo and pulling the old case file.

Garcia's tattoo captured the night of the shooting, from the Christmas lights outside the liquor store to the bent light post in the store's parking lot to the convalescent home called the Rivera, next door to the liquor store. The scene shows a chopper spraying bullets on a victim. Garcia's gang nickname is "Chopper."

The victim, John Juarez, is depicted as a Mr. Peanut. The peanut is commonly used as a symbol of a rival gang in Pico Rivera, Lloyd said. The crime scene is under a tattoo on Garcia's neck that reads "Rivera Kills."

The tattoo was so accurate that Lloyd called it a "crime scene sketch and a confession." Garcia's tattoo artist even matched the trajectory of the bullets, Lloyd said.

Garcia was arrested in October of 2008 and charged with the murder. He reportedly confessed to officers posing as gang members in the jail.

Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford prosecuted the case and called Garcia's tattoo a "non-verbal confession."

Lunsford said Garcia spent years perfecting the tattoo. A 2005 booking photo of him from an unspecified charge shows just the chopper shooting bullets at Mr. Peanut. A 2006 booking photo of him from another unspecified charge adds the liquor store and his 2008 booking photo from the suspended license charge shows the complete scene.

Police said they have closely examined Garcia's other tattoos to see if they represent any other crimes, but so far they do not believe so. Some of his other tattoos show a man wearing a bandana around his mouth pointing a gun. Another shows a man holding somebody in a chokehold with one arm and pointing a dagger toward their head in the other.

Garcia's getaway driver, gang member Robert Armijo, pleaded guilty to the crime and testified against Garcia. He is facing a 20-year prison sentence, police said.

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