The process was routine. L.A. County Sheriff's homicide investigator Kevin Lloyd was flipping through snapshots of tattooed gang members.
Then one caught his attention.
Inked on the pudgy chest of a young Pico Rivera gangster who had been picked up and released on a minor offense was the scene of a 2004 liquor store slaying that had stumped Lloyd for more than four years.
Each key detail was right there: the Christmas lights that lined the roof of the liquor store where 23-year-old John Juarez was gunned down, the direction his body fell, the bowed street lamp across the way and the street sign — all under the chilling banner of RIVERA KILLS, a reference to the gang Rivera-13.
As if to seal the deal, below the collarbone of the gang member known by the alias "Chopper" was a miniature helicopter raining down bullets on the scene.
Lloyd's discovery of the tattoo in 2008 launched a bizarre investigation that soon led to Anthony Garcia's arrest for the shooting. Then sheriff's detectives, posing as gang members, began talking to Garcia, 25, in his holding cell. They got a confession that this week led to a first-degree murder conviction in a killing investigators had once all but given up hope of solving.
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