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Man charged with murder in drive-by shooting that killed 8-year-old Pomona boy

A man suspected of killing an 8-year-old boy in a drive-by shooting in Pomona has been charged with murder, Los Angeles County prosecutors announced this week.

Sengchan Houl was arrested Sunday in connection with the death of Jonah Hwang, who was struck by gunfire while visiting a home with friends and family in Pomona on Feb. 20.

Houl, 35, was charged Tuesday with one count of murder, one count of shooting from a moving vehicle and four counts of shooting into an inhabited dwelling, prosecutors said. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned April 26.

If convicted, Houl faces life without parole or possibly the death penalty if prosecutors choose to seek it, officials said

Jonah was with his parents and brother at a family friend’s home for dinner when a gunman pulled up to the residence and opened fire. The boy was struck in the head, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

A neighbor in the 1100 block of West 11th Street said he heard a car speed off after gunshots.

No one else was injured, police said.

Jonah was adopted about three years ago from an orphanage in Taiwan, according to a statement released by his parents, Jonny and Karen Hwang.

“He had an infectious smile and loved everyone and everything: sports, wrestling with his dad, running, laughing, superheroes,” his parents said. “Jonah was a light and joy in our household, and we cannot imagine our family without him.”

During the investigation police discovered the home where Jonah was killed had been targeted by gunmen three other times this year.

“I want the community to know that the members of this Pomona Police Department poured their hearts and souls into solving this crime,” Pomona Police Chief Paul Capraro said. “We’re a long way from getting to the end of things. We’re going to see this through.” He said the investigation is still in its early stages.

In January, the homeowners found bullet holes in their residence. Drive-by shootings also took place March 7 just before 7 p.m. and March 25 about 7:15 a.m. The house was empty all three times.

After Jonah was killed, Capraro said his department “put resources in place designed to identify and capture the people or the person responsible.” He would not comment on whether surveillance cameras were used but thanked multiple agencies for their help, including the FBI.

The investigation led officers to the vehicle believed to have been used in all four shootings.

Pomona police stopped the driver of that vehicle, identified as Houl, on Sunday as he was leaving his home in an unincorporated area of Pomona.

Capraro said Houl does not appear to have an extensive criminal history. Authorities are also trying to determine whether others were involved in the shootings.

Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval cautioned that every individual has the right to due process, but said the city could rejoice knowing that someone had been arrested.

“Pomona lost a son,” Sandoval said. “We lost a child, Jonah Hwang, to a senseless shooting that left our city deeply saddened and pained. ... We never lost hope in ultimately finding who committed this heinous crime.”

Contact the Homicide Report, and follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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