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Gang member sentenced to life in prison for LA deputy's murder

Deputy Juan Abel Escalante is seen in this undated file photo. Escalante was shot and killed Aug. 2, 2008 outside his Cypress Park home.

October 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A gang member on Tuesday pleaded guilty to killing an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy in 2008.

Carlos Velasquez, 28, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A judge accepted his plea and sentenced him immediately.

Deputy Juan Abel Escalante was shot and killed Aug. 2, 2008 outside his Cypress Park home as he was getting ready to go to work at Men's Central Jail. The 27-year-old father of three was not in uniform at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors said Velasquez believed the victim was a rival gang member. Velasquez admitted the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed by an active gang member and to further the criminal activities of a criminal street gang. He also admitted he personally fired a handgun that killed Escalante.

Velasquez is the third defendant to plead guilty or no contest in connection with Escalante's murder. Arnoldo Pineda pleaded no contest in September 2010 to voluntary manslaughter and is facing a 14-year state prison term. Guillermo Hernandez, 24, pleaded no contest in April to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 21 years in state prison.

Three other men charged in the case - Jose Renteria, Armando Albarran, and Roberto Salazar - have not yet been prosecuted.

City News Service contributed to this report.