Most of us feel safe living in Studio City and other surrounding Valley neighborhoods. But there are some suspected bad guys lurking on the streets—and the police are looking for them.
One man is wanted in the shooting of an alleged gang member on New Year's Eve, and another man is being sought in a second shooting of a presumed gang member the day after Christmas. Police are looking for one suspect in connection with a drive-by shooting and another man in a shooting following a car accident. One man is being sought in the stabbing of his wife, while another is wanted in the shooting of his wife's alleged lover.
They're all wanted on charges of murder or attempted murder, and some have been on the loose for more than a decade.
Perhaps being aware of these suspects and the crimes for which they are being sought will prevent more residents from harm.
The Los Angeles Police Department posts a list of the area's most wanted on the North Hollywood Division website.
Thomas Townsend, the homicide detective assigned to the LAPD's North Hollywood division, walked us through the seven major cases for which suspects are most wanted in our area.
Studio City Patch will be profiling each individual case as an example of the crime that can occur in the area, offering a bit more detail than the police reveal on their website.
* Gustavo Araiza—wanted on charges in the shooting of a random person on the street on Oct. 26, 1995.
* Baldomero Barrientos Banuelos—wanted for allegedly stabbing his wife to death on Oct. 14, 1993.
* Jose Hector Casas—accused of gunning down a fellow gang member the day after Christmas on Dec. 26, 2001.
* Juan Manuel Chavez—wanted on charges of a drive-by murder on Dec. 31, 2001.
* Antonio Leanos—wanted for allegedly shooting a man who was trash-talking his girlfriend on Aug. 3, 1995.
* Miguel Angel Rodriguez—wanted as a suspect in connection with a shooting of a man who reportedly argued with him after a car accident on April 26, 1997.
These seven men are warrant suspects, meaning there are outstanding warrants for their arrest if they are found. When the police cannot find the suspect, they make a case to the district attorney for an arrest warrant.
"The district attorney reviews the case, and they decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to issue a warrant," Townsend said. "There're different types of warrants, but this one is a warrant that means the case is filed with a court case number."
The detective explained, "The district attorney will review the case. If they determine that they can prosecute and obtain a conviction, a high probability for conviction, they will have a warrant issued. So they present it to the judge, the judge signs the warrant, the warrant is then entered into the county warrant system at the courthouse."
Any of these warrant suspects may be arrested on sight.
"For the warrant suspect, the case has already been presented to the district attorney's office and essentially it has been approved for prosecution," Townsend said. "We just don't have the person to stand there in front of the judge for the prosecution."
As the search continues, the LAPD has cooperation from national and sometimes international organizations.
"When we return with the information, we send it downtown to records and identification and then they update the NCIC, the National Crime Information Center," Townsend explained. Mexico has also cooperated in cases where the suspect fled south of the border.
So, if the suspect has ever been processed and fingerprinted, any officer who checks his prints will find them in the system.
"For example, if my name is Thomas Townsend, and I have committed a crime, and there's a warrant for my arrest, and I get pulled over in Florida, and the officer in Florida were to run my name and birth date as Thomas Townsend, they're going to find an arrest warrant in the system for me."
Many of these suspects have been on the run since the 1990s and perhaps do not have prints in the system.
"There are warrant suspects that are out there that have never been arrested in the state of California or in the United States," the detective explained. "They've been identified by name and birthday, but they may not have fingerprints in the system. So the likelihood of those people being caught is lessened to those that have had fingerprints in the system."
All seven are murder suspects, which is why they remain among the area's most wanted decades after their crimes.
"Murder suspects are always given a high priority. We're talking the ultimate crime here. They have always been given priority. Homicide detectives are typically given priority with what they require for their investigations," Townsend said. "Just being the nature of the crime itself would probably indicate why those are up there in a priority."
At the moment, all seven of the men on the list are confirmed to have fled to Mexico. The LAPD continues to investigate their families and known associates and work with the Mexican authorities to bring them in.
And, although Detective Townsend said it is unlikely that these suspects have returned to the area, if you happen to see any of these suspects, do not try to approach or apprehend the suspect yourself. They are all considered armed and dangerous. Contact the police immediately.
Meanwhile, check with this Patch each week for a report on each individual suspect.