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Motive unknown in L.A. deputy killing

August 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The motive is still unknown in the Cypress Park shooting that killed an off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy on Saturday.Juan Escalante, 27, was not in uniform but was on his way to work when he was fatally shot in front of his parents' home.

Witnesses reported hearing about five shots, and Escalante was declared dead at the scene.

"He was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. And he was suddenly and tragically taken away from us," said Captain Dan Cruz, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "It's not only a loss for the Sheriff's Department, but it's also a loss for the community."

Escalante, his wife and three children were living with his parents and were about to buy their first home in Pomona.

However, on Monday, loved ones gathered at the Coroner's office, surrounded by dozens of Sheriff's Deputies. Escalante was draped in the American Flag for his final moment with the Department.

LAPD homicide detectives have been hunting for suspects since Saturday morning, but no one has been arrested. Some say the Cypress Park area, northeast of downtown, has been plagued by gang violence.

"I didn't know he was a cop. And I would talk to him, and he would say he was going to work, but he didn't tell me where he worked," said one neighbor. "It was no big deal I guess ... He didn't want no one to know, I guess."

Few neighbors knew Escalante's profession, however, those in the Men's Central Jail did. Police are looking into whether his job as a guard at the Men's Central Jail in downtown L.A. had anything to do with his death. Two months ago, suspects were jailed in a police sweep of Cypress Park and Glassell Park. Escalante was assigned to the area called "high power unit" of Central Jail, where he may have guarded inmates, who may have been his former neighbors.

"That's just one of many possible scenarios that we're looking at," said Captain Cruz. "Right now we don't know who did this or what the motive is. We have absolutely no idea. We're looking into several leads, but at this point, we don't know who did this."

Anyone with information should call the LAPD at (877) LAW-FULL.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Eyewitness News reporters Subha Ravindhran, Miriam Hernandez and Robert Holguin contributed to this report.

 

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