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Former L.A. County sheriff's deputy pleads no contest to killing man in Sylmar

An ex-Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded no contest Tuesday to killing a former neighbor in Sylmar.

Francisco “Frank” Gamez II entered the plea to second-degree murder and attempted murder charges in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, according to Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli sentenced Gamez, a 45-year-old Latino, to 25 years to life in prison.

A defense attorney could not be reached for comment.

Gamez was a detective in West Hollywood and worked for the Sheriff’s Department for 17 years, but his career took a violent turn on June 17, 2012.

Authorities said Gamez’s then-20-year-old son got into a dispute with Armando “Cookie” Casillas, a well-known figure in Sylmar.

Gamez had lived for several years near Casillas before moving to San Fernando.

After the fight, Gamez’s son called his father, who furiously raced to the scene. From his car, Gamez confronted Casillas and another man and then fired two shots at the men.

Casillas, 38, was struck in the chest and died later that day. The other man narrowly escaped injury.

Gamez was relieved of duty the next month after LAPD detectives identified him as a suspect in the slaying. Several months later, he was arrested at his San Fernando home.

Then-Sheriff Lee Baca publicly denounced the incident as “deeply disturbing.”

After the killing, neighbors along Beaver Street in Sylmar praised Casillas – an unemployed factory worker and divorced father of one – for being considerate.

"He was a sweetheart, and very generous," said Patsy Telles-Cabrera, who lived across the street from Casillas and his family for many years. "He would check in on my parents."

Photo: Veteran L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Francisco Gamez appeared in court on Nov. 15, 2012. He stood behind a glass wall facing away from the judge. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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