Three Los Angeles gang members were involved in the robbery and killing of an off-duty police officer house-hunting with his girlfriend pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges, prosecutors said Friday.
Luis Alfredo de la Rosa Rios, 29; Ernesto Cisneros, 24; and Jesse Contreras, 35, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in connection with the Jan. 10, 2022, death of Los Angeles Police Officer Fernando Arroyos, the Justice Department said.
“This case starkly illustrates the devastating impact of gangs on our community,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said. “A young man who had achieved great success and returned to serve his community as a Los Angeles Police officer was murdered while shopping for a home in the city he took an oath to protect. These senseless tragedies are repeated too often.”
A fourth suspect, Haylee Marie Grisham, 20, an associate of the gang and Rios’ girlfriend, pleaded guilty on April 5 to one count of violent crime in aid of racketeering for participating in the fatal robbery of Arroyos.
Arroyos, 27, was looking at homes in South Los Angeles with his wife when the four suspects attacked the officer and his girlfriend. The four were riding in a truck looking for people to rob when they spotted Arroyos wearing a gold chain.
Cisneros, who was armed, approached the officer and took his chain and wallet, which contained his LAPD identification card, and patted down his girlfriend, federal prosecutors said. He then opened fire on Arroyos, killing him, authorities said.
Rios and Contreras told investigators they had committed two robberies earlier that day.
The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Then Sheriff Alex Villanueva handed the case over to federal authorities in an unusual step, bypassing Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon.
He said Gascon, who has been the subject of two failed recall attempts and criticism from law enforcement, elected officials and crime victims for policies deemed to be soft on crime, would not charge the suspects appropriately in what many saw as a show of no-confidence in the DA’s office.
“We definitely had a conversation with the local DAs and their response was not satisfactory to the gravity of this situation. They were consistent with the special orders from the District Attorney…and I believe their plan was just prosecute a simple murder with no gun enhancements, no gang enhancements, nothing. And that did not really cover the depravity of this crime,” Villanueva said at the time.
Upon taking office, Gascon issued a series of special directives, including ordering his prosecutors not to pursue sentence enhancements, which can add years to certain convictions.
Each defendant faces up to life in prison. However, prosecutors have agreed to seek terms of between 35 and 50 years in prison for Rios and Cisneros, and a prison term of 35 years for Contreras.