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Samuel Zambrano, 19 [Updated]

Samuel Zambrano, a 19-year-old Latino, died Monday, Dec. 22, after he was stabbed in the 1900 block of East 110th St. in Watts, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

LAPD Det. Tom Eiman, who investigated Zambrano’s killing, called him a “good kid” who had gotten involved with local gang members a short time before his death.

“He got diverted through some contacts in the neighborhood,” said Eiman, who added that to his knowledge Zambrano’s gang activity had been limited and did not involve any serious or violent crimes.

Eiman said that on the day of the fatal fight Zambrano was with a group of friends – the youngest of whom was 13. As they walked down a street they exchanged words with rival gang members, Eiman said. The other group then chased them down the street and a fist fight broke out.

Zambrano was not part of the initial fight. When a member of the rival gang, holding either an ice pick or a screwdriver, lunged at one of Zambrano’s friend, Zambrano attempted to intervene.

“His attitude was: ‘Let them fight, stay out of it,’” said Eiman of witness accounts of what happened next.

“The other guy was straight out of prison and slapped him with that thing three times,” he said. “The third time went into his temple.” Eiman called Zambrano’s attempts to come to the aid of his friend “a noble deed.”

Two months after Zambrano was killed, authorities arrested the first of three people in connection with the case. Fernando Quintana, a 27-year-old Latino was apprehended on February 25, 2009. On March 26, 2009, Julio Otero, a 34-year-old Latino, was captured and nine days later Diana Rayos, a 25-year-old Latina was also arrested.

On March 10, 2010, Otero, who stabbed Zambrano, and his codefendants Quintana and Rayos were each convicted of one count of murder in connection with the killing. On June 8, Otero was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison with 461 days of credited time. Quintana was sentenced to 25 years to life with 466 days credited and Rayos was given 25 years to life, with 426 days credited time.

[This post was last updated June 16, 2010 to include a more complete account of the circumstances surrounding Zambrano’s homicide]

— Megan Garvey and Sarah Ardalani

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