Eddie Junior Tapia, 41
Eddie Junior Tapia a 41-year-old Latino, was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies Thursday, Sept. 10, in the 9200 block of Lakewood Boulevard in Downey, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department homicide investigators.
Deputies shot Tapia after he held people hostage for about an hour in a Chris' and Pitt's BBQ restaurant, according to the release.
Tapia was considered a person of interest in the shooting of his acquaintance, Rocio Lissette Vasquez, a 46-year-old Latina who lived in East Los Angeles.
Vasquez’s body was discovered by firefighters around 6:45 a.m. as they were putting out a fire in her home, according to a statement from the sheriff’s department. Her badly burned body was found on a futon in one of the bedrooms, where the fire started.
Investigators originally believed the fire was accidentally caused by Vasquez smoking in bed, and that she died in the blaze. After the autopsy, however, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office determined Vasquez was killed by a gunshot prior to the fire being set, according to the release.
Coroner’s records are not available in Vasquez's death because of a security hold imposed by the sheriff’s department.
Homicide investigators began looking at Vasquez’s acquaintances, and learned that Tapia had frequently visited her home, according to the department release.
Investigators never got a chance to question Tapia about Vasquez's death. The Times reported that deputies began following Tapia in a helicopter that evening, when they spotted him driving a stolen vehicle in Downey. During the chase, which was filmed in part by broadcast media, Tapia got out of the stolen car and used a gun to carjack a woman’s silver sedan.
Tapia was pursued by deputies, often at high speeds, through Monterey Park, Alhambra, Montebello, Pico Rivera and neighboring cities, until he returned to Downey. His vehicle struck at least one car and nearly hit a bicyclist, until he was forced to a stop by California Highway Patrol officers, according to The Times. Tapia then jumped out of the car, fired his handgun into the air, and ran into the restaurant.
An estimated 80 patrons and employees escaped, including children and elderly people Tapia let go, according to The Times, but at least three patrons remained inside.
During the siege, Tapia ordered one of the hostages to use his cellphone to videotape him so he could send a message to his children, according to KNBC-TV. The hostage, who called himself Danny, gave the video to KNBC, so Tapia’s children could hear his message, according to the station.
In the video posted on KNBC’s website, Tapia stands with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand holding a tall red glass, drinking occasionally and sometimes looking over his shoulder as he soberly explain his situation.
“Hi guys,” Tapia says at the start of the video. “The things they’re trying to say bad about me, you know, I didn’t hurt that lady. I got caught up again. Bad luck, bad decisions. I don't want to go back to jail, guys. You already know what bad luck I’ve got … I love you guys to death and I don’t want you guys have to be visiting me in prison.”
Tapia didn't specify what lady he was referring to. Sheriff’s investigators called a crisis negotiator to the scene, according to The Times, but it’s not clear if the negotiator ever made contact with Tapia. A telephone rang in the restaurant throughout the video, but Tapia ignored it.
After about an hour, sheriff's deputies stormed the restaurant and Tapia was shot and killed, according to the department release. No hostages were injured.
Detectives are still investigating Vasquez’s death, and want to talk to people who knew her and Tapia.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.