3 gang members involved in death of off-duty LAPD officer plead guilty
Officer Fernando Arroyos, 27, was house-hunting with his girlfriend when the three men took his wallet, saw he was a LAPD officer, then began shooting
By Josh Cain
Press-Telegram, Long Beach, Calif.
LOS ANGELES — Three gang members who got into a shootout with an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer in early 2022, robbing then killing him while he was out house hunting with his girlfriend, have pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges that will put them behind bars for decades, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday, July 14.
The three men — Luis Alfredo de la Rosa Rios, 29, Ernesto Cisneros, 24, and Jesse Contreras, 35 — all agreed to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy under federal racketeering laws targeting organized crime, the DOJ said in a statement.
The trio admitted to Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives that they were involved in the shooting of Fernando Arroyos, the 27-year-old officer who was walking with his girlfriend on East 87th Street in the Florence-Graham neighborhood of South L.A. on Jan. 10, 2022, when the men confronted the couple, authorities said.
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Court documents show two of them admitted to the detectives to being members of Florencia 13, a Mexican Mafia subgroup operating in South L.A. Contreras admitted the same to a jail house informant.
The men told investigators they had been driving around in a black pickup truck that night, according to court records, scouting for robbery victims: They spotted Arroyos, who was wearing a gold chain around his neck. When they pulled up alongside him and his girlfriend, Rios and Cisneros got out and pointed guns at them.
Cisneros removed Arroyos' wallet from his pocket — and found the officer's LAPD identification card inside.
That's when the shooting began.
Both Rios and Cisneros fired at least once at Arroyos, who also took out his gun and fired back.
Arroyos was hit once. He ran into an alley nearby and collapsed and died at St. Francis Medical Center a half hour after the shooting.
A bullet grazed Rios's left ribcage, leaving a hole in his white, hooded sweatshirt, according to a FBI affidavit. Cisneros was hit in the leg; he believed it was broken, he told the others when he got back in the pickup.
Deputies later arrested all three men and a woman, 20-year-old Haylee Marie Grisham, who was Rios' girlfriend and in the truck with them.
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All three men face a maximum of life behind bars. But according to the plea agreements, federal prosecutors will seek sentences of 35 to 50 years in prison for Rios and Cisneros; they will seek 35 years for Contreras. All are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25.
Grisham agreed to plead guilty in April to one count of committing a violent crime as part of a racketeering scheme. She will plead guilty on Sept. 11.
None of the defendants are facing murder charges for killing Arroyo because of the jurisdiction of the case. FBI guidelines posted to the agency's website note "that unless, for example, a federal official is murdered while performing official functions," murder is not automatically a federal offense.
Murder charges would more likely have been filed against the men in state court. But after the shooting, then- Sheriff Alex Villanueva declined to bring charges for killing Arroyos to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Villanueva, who at the time was feuding with L.A. County D.A. George Gascón, said he believed the D.A.'s plan "was to prosecute a simple murder with no gun enhancements, no gang enhancements."
Villanueva brought the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office instead. The D.A.'s office did not respond to a request for comment.
While they did not charge the men with murder, federal prosecutors filed a special sentencing allegation that the men acted with reckless disregard for Arroyo's life, and that their actions directly contributed to his death.
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