WeHo deputy charged in off-duty murder

November 16, 2012

Unknown whether or not service revolver was used in crime – no explanation about why It took so long to remove deputy from duty on the street.

On June 17, an off-duty West Hollywood Sheriff allegedly took part in an argument involving his son, shooting and killing one man and shooting at, but not striking, another.

The deputy was not removed from active duty until July 3, nearly three weeks after the incident, and only arrested yesterday at an undisclosed location.

Today Francisco Gamez, 41, a 17 year veteran of the department having served that past seven years in West Hollywood, faces one count of murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as one count of firing a gun from a vehicle.

A WeHo Deputy Sheriff (not the one shown) has been arrested and charged in the June 17 murder of a Sylmar man.

Investigating officer LAPD Detective Louis Zorrilla declined to say whether or not Deputy Gamez used his service revolver in the alleged shootings.

In addition, Detective Zorrilla would not say why so long a period expired between the alleged shooting and LAPD’s informing LASD of Deputy Gamez’s alleged involvement in the crime and eventual removal from active duty.

When asked by WeHo News if he saw how suspicions might be raised about LAPD’s failure to answer those questions, he responded, “Yeah, I can see how some people might think that’s suspicious.”

He added, however, that providing that information to the press at this time might affect the investigation.

An arraignment has been postponed until Dec. 10.

According to the LAPD web site. on June 17, 2012, around 11:15 p.m., Mission Area patrol officers were flagged down by citizens in the 14000 block of Beaver Street in Sylmar who directed them to a 38-year-old Sylmar resident, Armando "Cookie" Casillas, who was suffering from a gunshot wound.

Mr. Casillas was transported to Providence Holy Cross Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Mr. Casillas is an apparently well-known and well-liked figure in his neighborhood.

Authorities refused to say if the Deputy's service revolver was used in the crime.

A second victim was shot at by the assailant at the time of the homicide. That second victim was not injured.

Mission Homicide detectives began to investigate the murder and developed leads that possibly connected a deputy sheriff to the crime.

LAPD Robbery Homicide Division assumed primary investigative responsibility because the suspect was a possible deputy sheriff. 

On November 14, 2012, working in partnership with Mission Homicide Detectives, Robbery Homicide Division Detectives arrested 41-year-old Francisco Gamez for murder.

Deputy Gamez was booked into the 77th Street Jail and held on four million dollars bail.

Prior to the shooting, Deputy Gamez’s son and Mr. Casillas had reportedly been involved in an argument.

The son allegedly called his father, LASD Deputy Gamez, who then drove to the 14000 block of Beaver St. in Sylmar shortly after 10 p.m. and fired from his vehicle at Casillas and the second individual.

Mr. Gamez and the victim reportedly lived one block apart.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said, “It’s a very sad day for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Whitmore said.

Authorities refused to say if the Deputy's service revolver was used in the crime.

“We are deeply disturbed at what transpired. It is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s job to prevent crimes, not cause them. The sheriff acted quickly on July 3 to place him on leave, and termination is the next step.”

Gamez is currently being held on $4 million bail.

According to the LA Times, a person who identified himself as the victim's brother commented on its web site saying he suspected a deputy was responsible.

"We think he is a L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF," the comment stated. "The reason we think he is a Sheriff is that he shouted to my Brother "L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF WHERE YOU FROM" as if the sheriff was in a gang."

The person who wrote the comment could not be reached Wednesday evening.

Mr. Casillas' sister told the Times that the family was thankful for the arrest, but that they were not prepared to discuss the events that led to the fatal shooting.

In a statement, Sheriff Lee Baca called the incident "deeply disturbing."

His spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department placed Gamez on leave July 3 after learning from the LAPD about the investigation.

"He's been stripped of all law enforcement power," Whitmore said. "It casts a pall over the scores and scores of deputy sheriffs that every day do their job."

Mr. Gamez could face up to 75 years to life in state prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney's Office.