Francisco Antonio Penado Jr., 44
Francisco Antonio Penado Jr., a 44-year-old Latino, was shot and killed Saturday, June 9, in the 1100 block of East Artesia Boulevard in Compton, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records.
Penado was driving his minivan in Compton, when he pulled into the Arco gas station at 2195 South Santa Fe Ave., next to the exit on the 91 Freeway, shortly after 6 p.m., said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred.
Investigators were able to piece together what happened next from multiple witness accounts and “impeccable” surveillance video at the gas station, Alfred said.
The video shows Penado pulling into the gas station and his girlfriend and another male getting out of the minivan, Alfred said.
There was “a very heated exchange of words” between Penado and his girlfriend and the other male, Alfred said, then Penado drove away to the south end of the parking lot.
About the time Penado was driving away, a white Honda Civic pulled into the parking area, said Sgt. Eric Arias. Penado’s minivan reappeared, and began driving in circles around the Honda, striking the rear and front of the car.
Penado's girlfriend said he had been "acting and driving bizarrely" before the gas station, Arias said, but investigators don’t know what prompted Penado to focus on the Honda.
The Honda driver tried to move closer to the gas pumps, Arias said, but when the Penado drove toward him at a high rate of speed, the Honda sped away, heading south on Santa Fe Avenue. The minivan followed in the same direction, out of the camera’s range.
A short time later, Penado's minivan reappeared, heading south on South Santa Fe Avenue through a red light, where it collided with a car coming off the freeway exit, Arias said.
The collision disabled both vehicles, Arias said. The woman driving the other car was “banged up, but didn’t go to the hospital,” he said.
Penado’s minivan came to rest against the curb just east of the gas station, and he got out and walked away, Arias said. He jumped over a wrought iron fence onto the Compton College campus and continued walking south on Santa Fe Avenue, then east on East Artesia Boulevard.
What happened next was out of view of the surveillance camera, but was reported by multiple witnesses, Alfred said.
“All these people at the gas station thought they were watching a hit and run accident,” Alfred said, “so they were following him, some on foot and some in cars, saying, ‘Hey, you can’t walk away from this crash’ and calling us to report a hit and run collision.”
The white Honda pulled alongside the curb on East Artesia Avenue, Arias said, and the driver shouted at Penado and Penado shouted back from behind the fence. Then the driver of the white Honda pulled out a gun and shot Penado from inside his car, Arias said.
Reports that Penado was being pursued by the suspect and calling for help were not substantiated by witnesses, Arias said.
Penado was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:06 p.m., according to coroner’s records. The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound to the head.
The white Honda drove away, but investigators were able to identify the owner based on surveillance video and witness accounts, Arias said. They arrested the car's owner, Guadalupe Miguel Meza, 33, the following day, he said, and witnesses identified him as the driver from a lineup.
Meza was charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a felon with three prior convictions on July 12. The charges also include allegations that he acted to benefit a street gang and used a handgun to commit the crime, according to Paul Eakins, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Meza on July 12 pleaded not guilty. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 7 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Compton Courthouse.
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.