LOS ANGELES – A California gang member was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder after authorities say a tattoo on his chest depicting the murder scene led to his apprehension. 25-year-old Anthony Garcia (pictured above) could face life in prison for his role in the 2004 shooting at a Pico Rivera liquor store.
Garcia eluded police until 2008 when he was picked up for driving with a suspended license. Suspecting that he was an active member of the Rivera-13 gang, police then photographed his tattoos and took a mugshot.
While looking for leads on an entirely different crime, Det. Sgt. Kevin Lloyd came across Garcia’s picture in the mug book when something struck him: “it looked like a murder from way back when.” He then drove to the liquor store named on Garcia’s tattoo and cross-referenced with the old case file.
Lloyd was so struck by the detailed accuracy of the tattoo that he called it a “crime scene sketch and a confession.”
Garcia’s tattoo captured the night of the shooting, from the Christmas lights outside the liquor store to the bent light post in the store’s parking lot to the convalescent home called the Rivera, next door to the liquor store. The scene shows a chopper spraying bullets on a victim. Garcia’s gang nickname is “Chopper.” The victim, John Juarez, is depicted as a Mr. Peanut. The peanut is commonly used as a symbol of a rival gang in Pico Rivera, Lloyd said. The crime scene is under a tattoo on Garcia’s neck that reads “Rivera Kills.”
Garcia was arrested in October of 2008 and charged with the murder. While behind bars, he reportedly confessed to officers posing as gang members.
Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford called Garcia’s tattoo a “non-verbal confession.”
“It was offensive, the brazenness of it,” Lunsford said. “I would never say that he’s not intelligent. He was able to avoid detection for four years … his arrogance got the better of him, not a lack of intelligence.”
Los Angeles police and experts on gang tattoos said they can’t recall another example of a criminal tattooing such a literal depiction of a crime.