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LA deputy charged in murder of man in Sylmar appears in court

November 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy charged in the murder of a man in Sylmar made his first court appearance Thursday.

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested 41-year-old Deputy Francisco Gamez, a 17-year veteran with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, in the murder of Armando Casillas on Wednesday.

Investigators say Gamez was off-duty on Father's Day when he got a phone call from his 20-year-old son, who had gotten into some sort of confrontation with neighbors. According to investigators, Gamez responded and that's when the shooting happened. Casillas was shot and killed on June 17, Father's Day, just steps away from the doorway of his parents' home.

"I heard gunshots, came out, and I saw my brother lying on the grass, unconscious," said Marylou Casillas, the victim's sister.

Gamez is also accused of firing a shot at a neighbor standing near the victim.

"They shot and killed my brother, and then they attempted to kill the neighbor. Luckily, he just got away," said Joe Casillas.

For five months, the family has been hearing rumors and waiting for answers until Gamez's arrest. Members of the victim's family said they are devastated to learn that the suspected killer is a deputy.

"We're just sad. My brother's dead, he's gone. It's heartbreaking. People who are supposed to protect the community shouldn't be doing stuff like that," said Joe Casillas, the victim's brother. "It's just too bad that he was a professional and we are law-abiding citizens, and over something, maybe not even something big, everybody lost a lot."

Gamez most recently worked as a detective in West Hollywood. The LASD said Gamez was pulled off duty in July when the investigation began.

"Let's face it, this casts a pall over the work that the scores of deputy sheriffs do every day. The sheriff is deeply concerned about this," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesperson for the sheriff's department.

Gamez's family lives just up the block from where the shooting happened. No one inside answered the door on Thursday. Neighbors say Gamez himself has not lived in the location for several years.

While on duty, deputies say Gamez had a solid work record - nothing that would indicate that he would be capable of murdering someone.

Gamez has been charged with Casillas' murder, the attempted murder of the second victim and discharging a weapon from an occupied vehicle. If convicted, Gamez faces a maximum of 75 years to life in state prison.

Gamez's bail was set at $4 million. He is expected to enter a plea Dec. 12.


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