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Man charged with murder in fatal shooting of his 17-year-old friend

 A 20-year-old Long Beach man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he shot and killed his 17-year-old friend during a graduation party brawl on July 16 in Artesia. 

Robert Rolando Garcia, a 20-year-old Latino, is accused of killing his friend, Angel Aurelio Soto, 17, of Moreno Valley. Soto had returned to his childhood home in Lynwood that weekend to visit friends and his baby daughter, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Eddie Aguirre. 

The evening of Saturday, July 16, Soto, Garcia and two other friends attended a birthday party in the 18000 block of Alburtis Avenue in Artesia without an invitation, Aguirre said. 

During the party, Garcia got into an argument over balloons filled with nitrous oxide, Aguirre said. People inhale the gas for a high, Aguirre said. 

A fight ensued between Garcia's group and other people at the party, Aguirre said, and Garcia pulled out a gun and began shooting, striking Soto and two brothers who lived at the home, including the 18-year-old who was celebrating his graduation. 

The two brothers survived their injuries, Aguirre said, but Soto was struck in the chest and pronounced dead at the scene at 10:35 p.m.

Investigators believe Garcia was the only shooter during the brawl and that Soto accidentally got caught in the gunfire, Aguirre said.

Garcia was arrested Oct. 20 and charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder on Oct. 24, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. Garcia pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on Oct. 24 and is being held in lieu of $6 million bail. 

His next court hearing, to set a date for his preliminary hearing, is set for Dec. 7 in Norwalk. 

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