Boy with the crime-scene tattoo: Gang killer betrayed by body art

 

Los Angeles

The jury that found gang member Anthony Garcia guilty of murder in a Los Angeles court this week must have been pretty sure they were making the right decision: the defendant had evidence of guilt quite literally written all over him.

In a bizarre piece of detective work, which might have come straight from the pages of a crime novel, police have claimed that Garcia first came to their attention after sharp-eyed officers noticed that he had an image from the scene of an unsolved crime tattooed across his chest.

The image showed a peanut-shaped man being killed by machine gun fire from a helicopter outside a branch of the off-licence chain Ed's Liquor. Above the scene were the words "Rivera kills", which has been interpreted as a reference to a Latino street gang, Rivera-13.

Kevin Lloyd, an investigator for the LA County Sheriff's department who specialises in dealing with street violence, noticed the highly original tattoo while examining a photo that had been taken of Garcia in 2008, when he was arrested during a routine traffic stop on suspicion of driving with a suspended licence.

He promptly checked through a list of unsolved crimes in the Pico Rivera neighbourhood of East Los Angeles, and discovered that in 2004, a 23-year-old called John Juarez had been murdered outside a branch of Ed's Liquor. Photos of the crime scene revealed that his body had fallen at the same angle as the "peanut" figure in the tattoo.

When it also emerged that a streetlamp, a road sign, and a string of Christmas lights adorning the image inked below Garcia's collarbone corresponded exactly with the same crime scene, Lloyd tracked him down and had him arrested. While Garcia was in custody, undercover officers posing as fellow gang members – but carrying hidden recording devices – approached him and asked about the distinctive tattoo. To their delight, he nonchalantly informed them it portrayed his first killing.

That confession was played to a jury this week, who promptly found Garcia, 25, guilty of first degree murder. He will be sentenced in May, when under Californian law he will face an enhanced jail term because the killing was linked to gangland activity.

During the trial, prosecutors called expert witnesses to explain some of supposed symbolism which features in the tattoo. They informed jurors that the word "peanut" is often used by Latino gang members to derisively describe a rival gang member. The helicopter is believed to refer to the defendant's nickname in Rivera-13: his peers apparently call him "chopper".

Garcia is not believed to have had the tattoo done until some time after Juarez's killing. Even then, it originally portrayed only a small portion of the scene. Further elements, including the details that helped Lloyd link him to the crime, were apparently added far later.

The conviction highlights some of the reasons why, when they spot what appear to be tattoos of gang insignia on the bodies of suspects, police in Los Angeles routinely take photos of their torsos. Witnesses at crimes often recall distinctive tattoos, while prolific graffiti artists carry permanent versions of the "tag" they use.

The Sheriff's department heralded this week's conviction as the reward for inspired detective work. "Think about it. He tattooed his confession on his chest. You have a degree of fate with this," Sheriff's Captain Mike Parker told the Los Angeles Times. "Sergeant Kevin Lloyd's incredible observation of Garcia's extraordinary tattoo, combined with great investigative work is one of the reasons why sheriff's homicide investigators are known as The Bulldogs. Fate and tenacious police work brought this convicted murderer to justice."

Making a mark in gangland

Japan

Last year a member of the Yakuza gang was jailed for seven months after he entered a bath house that banned tattooed people. Tattoos have long been treated as a sign of criminality in Japan and were banned for more than half a century until 1948.

Australia

A biker was severely beaten, allegedly by members of his own gang, after having a tattoo removed that indicated loyalty to the group.

United States

White supremacist Thomas Gibison was implicated in the killing of a black handyman in Philadelphia in 1989. His involvement was allegedly an attempt to "earn" the right to have a spider web tattoo, often used by White Power groups.

Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
News
news
News
peopleCampaign 'to help protect young people across the world'
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker