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Murder Charges in June Shooting:

A suspect in the June 28 Santa Monica fatal shooting of Byron Lopez that took place in the area of the 2000 block of the alley between 19th and 20th Streets was formally charged with murder by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office on Thursday, October 30. Jason Hurtado, 25, a “Santa Monica resident and admitted gang member” according to SMPD, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, and is being held on $3.5 million bail, according to the District Attorney’s office.

“Community members were instrumental in identifying Jason Hurtado as a suspect and clarifying the facts of this case,” said Santa Monica Police Department spokesman Sgt. Renaldi Thruston.

Hurtado was arrested by SMPD on July 2 when undercover officers contacted him and he pointed a firearm at an officer who had identified himself as police. Hurtado tossed the gun away and fled on foot, but officers quickly arrested him and recovered the gun. At that time, he was booked for assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and violation of probation. [Santa Monica Mirror, July 10-16, 2008]

Since that time, detectives out of SMPD Robbery Homicide have conducted the investigation that resulted in last week’s murder charges being filed, said SMPD Lt. Daniel Salerno. The detectives worked with the community to gather evidence on Hurtado’s involvement in the murder, noted Sgt. Thruston. Hurtado has been in custody during the entire investigation, Lt. Salerno added.

On June 28, shortly before 10 p.m., Santa Monica police responded to a report of shots fired at the alley location, but they were unable to locate any victims. A few minutes later while officers were canvassing the area, a local hospital notified the police department of the arrival of a gunshot victim.

Officers responded to the hospital and determined the gunshot victim, 28-year-old Byron Lopez of Gardena, was previously in the area of the 2000 block of court 19 at the time the shooting occured. After he was shot, Lopez’s friends drove him to the hospital; although he was a Gardena resident at the time, Lopez had grown up in Santa Monica, and his mother still lived here. He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. [Santa Monica Mirror, July 3-9, 2008]

Hurtado entered his plea at a November 3 arraignment; his next court date is November 17, at which time the date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set.

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call the Santa Monica Police Department at 310.458.8451 (M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or the Watch Commander at 310.458.8427 (24 hours). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call the WeTip hotline at 800.78.CRIME (27463).

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