El Sereno stabbing suspect in custody after standoff at Alhambra home

ByIrene Cruz, Eric Resendiz, and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
El Sereno stabbing suspect in custody after standoff in Alhambra
A man suspected in the stabbing death of a teen in El Sereno and another attack is in custody after a lengthy standoff.

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (KABC) -- A man suspected in the stabbing death of a teen in El Sereno and one other attack was in custody Wednesday morning after a standoff that lasted several hours.

Police around 7 a.m. had surrounded a home in Alhambra where they believe the stabbing suspect had barricaded himself.

A large police presence was seen at the home in the 2300 block of Westmont Drive. The Los Angeles Police Department responded and requested assistance from Alhambra police.

The standoff lasted more than two hours before police were able to convince the suspect to surrender peacefully shortly after 9 a.m.

"The suspect was taken into custody without incident," said LAPD Capt. German Hurtado.

"Our crisis negotiation team, our mental evaluation unit did an outstanding job negotiating with him and ensuring we came to a peaceful resolution. They used all the de-escalation tactics and were very professional and he came out and surrendered to the officers without incident."

LAPD later identified the suspect as 32-year-old David Zapata of Alhambra. He is expected to face a homicide charge. The Police Department initially said the suspect's last name was Zepeda and that he was 33 years old.

Authorities believe he is responsible for two stabbings in the El Sereno area that happened hours apart on March 3.

The killing of Xavier Chavarin happened Friday just before 4 p.m. on the 4500 block of Valley Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Chavarin was a straight-A student who attended Woodrow Wilson High School and was supposed to graduate in June, his family said.

Chavarin was outside King Torta restaurant in El Sereno waiting for his mother to pick him up. The suspect was seen on surveillance footage emerging from a car that had just driven up, approaching Chavarin on the sidewalk and stabbing him several times in the back with a large knife, police say.

His family said Chavarin later collapsed and died inside the restaurant while trying to get help.

A 17-year-old straight-A student was stabbed to death while waiting for his mother outside a restaurant in El Sereno.
The LAPD released these images of a man suspected in two separate stabbings in El Sereno on March 3, 2023.

Later that day, around 9 p.m. police believe the same suspect stabbed a 33-year-old man just down the road, in the 5400 block of Valley Boulevard. He was wearing similar clothing, except a baseball hat that he had in the earlier stabbing, and was riding a skateboard this time.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was shocked by the attack and sent 10 additional counselors to Woodrow Wilson High School to comfort staff and students.

"I'm shocked, as the entire community should be shocked," Carvalho said. "When something goes wrong with a kid like that, the entire community should bow its head and think about what's happening in Los Angeles."

Meanwhile, a memorial has since been set up at the site of the stabbing filled with flowers and messages for the family.

"He was very happy. He would like to make other people laugh. He was always a joyful kid you know," said a friend of Chavarin. "If you've seen something ... honestly, he was an innocent kid. He was stabbed in the back."

The friend said he's simply trying to wrap his head around the tragedy.

"I'm trying to stay sane right now," he said. "So many emotions going through me. I'm trying to hang in, stay in one piece and not fall apart."

Rosario Chavarin, Xavier's aunt said, "We ask parents now to protect their children so the same thing that happened to us doesn't happen to them."

Some of Chavarin's classmates said he was looking forward to going to college so it will be hard not to see him achieve his goals.

"This pain ... there are just no words," said the grieving aunt.

Chavarin's family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his funeral and memorial services.

City News Service contributed to this report.