LAPD officer Juan Diaz was shot and killed off duty after confronting taggers. (Photo: LAPD)
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LAPD officer Juan Diaz was shot and killed off duty after confronting taggers. (Photo: LAPD)

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced charges Tuesday against three out-of-town gang members accused of fatally shooting an off-duty Los Angeles police officer at a taco stand during a 90-minute crime spree in northeast Los Angeles last month.

The three — two men and a woman — were identified as Francisco Talamantes, 23; Cristian Facundo, 20; and Ashlynn Smith, 18. All three are residents of Temecula, CA, and were being held without bail since their arrest on Friday. Facundo fired the fatal shot that killed Officer Juan Diaz, Moore said.

Talamantes and Facundo face charges including murder with special circumstances and other counts. That would make them eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Smith faces charges including shooting into an inhabited vehicle and accessory to murder.

Friday’s arrests ended a six-day manhunt for the suspects.

Capt. Billy Hayes, the head of the Robbery-Homicide Division, told the Los Angeles Times that investigators tied the group to the crime spree with surveillance video, witness statements and forensic evidence.

Shortly after midnight on July 27, the three suspects and another 21-year-old woman from Los Angeles vandalized a vehicle owned by a former boyfriend on Avenue 33 and later tagged a location on Eagle Rock Avenue, Hayes said. The group then tagged a location on Artesina Place, which is where Officer Diaz confronted the tagger.

Facundo allegedly lifted his shirt to reveal a handgun, Hayes said. The tagger later returned with a group of young men and began threatening the 24-year-old Diaz, his girlfriend and her two brothers. Diaz, who was off duty, and his group tried to hurry to their car and drive away to avoid a violent confrontation.

As they got into the vehicle, the gunman opened fire, fatally wounding Diaz and wounding one of his girlfriend’s brothers. Talamantes and Facundo “walked with determination” back to the truck to fire bullets into the vehicle, Moore said.

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