PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — A hardcore gang member was found guilty of the 2006 murders of a popular Santa Monica High School student and a man who was gunned down at Virginia Avenue Park, police said Thursday night.
Jose Zapien, 25, was also convicted of the attempted murders of 12 other people in 2004 and 2006, Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Moroso said in a news release.
Prosecutors said Zapien fatally shot Eduardo “Eddie” Lopez, 15, in February 2006 as he walked with friends near the corner of Pico Boulevard and 26th Street.
Lopez was a popular student and promising outfielder on the school baseball team, according to those who knew him. Shortly after the murder, hundreds packed St. Monica Catholic Church to say good-bye to Lopez and thousands marched near Samohi with the boy’s family to call for peace and unity in the Pico Neighborhood, which has been troubled by gang violence.
Friends said Lopez’ dream was to get a good education so he could provide for his mother and grandmother.
Just two days after Christmas, Miguel Martin, 22, was shot and killed near the SMPD substation at Virginia Avenue Park. Martin was shot in the back as he tried to run from his attackers. At a memorial held a week after the killing, family and friends said Martin was in the process of turning his life around, working construction jobs with his father after earning his high school diploma from Olympic High School.
Detectives with the SMPD worked diligently to solve the murders, Moroso said. The SMPD worked in collaboration with patrol officers and detectives from the LAPD’s West Los Angeles and Pacific Divisions, as well as with attorneys from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Specialized Prosecution Unit, which encompasses the Hardcore Gang Division.
The two-week trial ended after five hours of jury deliberation, Moroso said. Zapien is facing multiple life sentences without parole. Sentencing will be held Jan. 9, 2014, Moroso said.
At least 24 homicides have been reported in Santa Monica since January 2007, according to the L.A. Times’ Homicide Report database.