LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A second defendant was charged today with murder in the May 8 killing of an MTV music coordinator in the Mid-Wilshire area, along with the slaying of another man about a week earlier.
Jabaar Vincent Thomas, 26, pleaded not guilty during an appearance before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra, who ordered Thomas and co-defendant Destiny Young, 30, to remain jailed without bail.
They are charged with the slaying of Gabriel Aron Ben-Meir, along with the April 30 killing of a 35-year-old man in the Pico-Union area.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a robbery and multiple murders. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.
The criminal complaint alleges that Thomas personally and intentionally discharged a shotgun during the commission of the crimes.
Thomas and Young also are each charged with seven counts of second-degree robbery, and Thomas is additionally charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Co-defendant Richard Edward Anderson Jr., 33, is charged with six counts of second-degree robbery. He has not been charged with either of the murders.
The criminal complaint alleges that all of the crimes were "committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang."
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said last month that he anticipated murder charges being filed against the two men, but those charges were delayed pending "the analysis of some of the evidence that was recovered."
The police chief said then that all three were suspected of taking part in the shotgun slaying of the 30-year-old MTV music coordinator and the April 30 shooting death of Marcelo Aragon.
Ben-Meir was killed outside his apartment building upon arriving home about 1:30 a.m., but his body was not found until about 6:30 a.m., police said.
Investigators said his wallet was stolen.
"Between April 29th and May 11th, these three individuals, armed with a shotgun, committed a series of 10 robberies and two homicides in the Mid-City, Koreatown, Pico-Union and Southwest area of Los Angeles," Beck alleged.
The three were arrested May 11, and police recovered a shotgun believed to have been used in both killings, Beck said.
The police chief said officers got a break in the case when they responded to a robbery that matched the suspects' method of operation. Officers investigating that robbery obtained a video of the suspects' vehicle.
On May 11, an officer saw the vehicle being driven near 10th Avenue and Washington Boulevard, and police swarmed to the scene and arrested Thomas and Young, Beck said.
"After lengthy interrogation ... it was determined that Thomas and Young were in fact the perpetrators of many of the robberies and both of the homicides," the chief said.
A follow-up investigation and a search by undercover officers led to Anderson, who was arrested in South Los Angeles and initially booked for robberies.
"A search warrant was immediately obtained and several pieces of evidence were recovered, including the shotgun used in what we believe to be both murders," Beck said.