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Monday, July 3, 2023

Murder Ink: The Incriminating Tattoo

     Street gang members love their tattoos, and criminal investigators, because these tattoos help identify perpetrators and solve crimes, love them, too. As an extreme example of how a gangster's tattoos led to his arrest and conviction, consider the historic Anthony Garcia murder case.

     On January 23, 2004, Anthony Garcia, a member of the Rivera-13 gang with the street name "Chopper," shot to death John Juarez, a member of a rival gang. The murder took place in Ed's Liquor Store in Pico Rivera, a city eleven miles southeast of Los Angeles. The case remained unsolved until 2008.

     In September 2008, Anthony Garcia was picked up for driving with a suspended driver's license. Because he was a known gang member, a police photograph took pictures of the tattoos on Garcia's chest and neck.

     Not long after Garcia's traffic arrest, Pico Rivera detective Kevin Lloyd, while looking through books of gang tattoo photographs in the course of investigating an unrelated case, came upon the photographs of the Garcia tattoos. What the detective saw triggered his memory of the 2004 liquor store murder of John Juarez.

     Anthony Garcia had, tattooed on his chest and neck, a tableau of the Juarez murder. The inked depiction included the front of Ed's Liquor Store, the bent light post in the parking lot, a man identified as "Chopper" shooting bullets into a Mr. Peanut figure (the gangland symbol of a rival gang member), and a dead body on the floor. "Rivera Kills" was inked into the side of Garcia's neck.

     Detective Lloyd considered Anthony Garcia's tattoos a "crime scene sketch and a confession."

     In 2009, a Los Angeles County prosecutor, based on the incriminating tattoo and other evidence, charged Anthony Garcia with the first-degree murder of rival gang member John Juarez. Officers also arrested Rivera-13 gang member Robert Armijo as Garcia's getaway driver.

     In 2010, Robert Armijo pleaded guilty to a lesser homicide offense, and in April 2011, testified against Garcia at his murder trial. The jury found Garcia guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

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