By Terri Vermeulen Keith
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A man on trial for allegedly being involved in a violent crime spree in which a motorist was shot to death in Panorama City and a wrong-way freeway crash that left a woman and her three children injured was tied to the crimes through GPS evidence from a car he regularly drove, a prosecutor told jurors.
On Monday, July 19, Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told the downtown Los Angeles jury in his opening statement that Artyom Gasparyan’s alleged months-long crime spree came to an end on Jan. 4, 2016, when he “went on a wild ride” and was shot by Los Angeles police after pulling a revolver from his pocket following the wrong-way crash on the Golden State (5) Freeway in Sun Valley.
Gasparyan, now 37, is charged with one count of murder involving the Dec. 30, 2015, killing of Adan Corea, a 32-year-old father of two who lost control of his vehicle after being shot.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of an intentional shooting from a motor vehicle.
Gasparyan is also facing 32 other counts, including attempted murder, robbery, carjacking, shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly and hit-and-run driving resulting in injury to another person.
The prosecutor said he believed the evidence would demonstrate an alleged “spree” of crimes between Aug. 5, 2015, and Jan. 4, 2016, involving a cross-section of people, including the shootings of two strangers crossing the street, a parking valet who was shot after money was demanded, a woman who survived being stabbed six times, and the owners of vehicles that were shot at while parked on a street in Glendale — the latter of which occurred on the defendant’s birthday, according to McKinney.
“All of the crimes in this case were committed with this vehicle being on scene …,” McKinney said, referring to a silver, four-door 2011 Volkswagen Jetta that he said was registered to Gasparyan’s mother and driven by the defendant during his alleged crime spree.
According to the prosecutor, analysis of a Garmin GPS device that was plugged into the vehicle’s dashboard will allow jurors to “literally see the movement of the car at each crime scene.”
A “twist happened” after Los Angeles police issued a crime alert upon determining that the crimes were linked, McKinney said, telling jurors that Gasparyan started to work with an “accomplice” named Daniel Ramirez.
The two allegedly were involved in the shooting of a food delivery driver who suffered “devastating injuries” when he was shot six times after trying to flee on foot in late December 2015, a “road-rage” incident the following day in which two people were shot just before two shots were fired at Corea, who died soon afterward at a hospital, and the robberies of two gas station convenience stores and two men walking home in the Silver Lake area from a Trader Joe’s store, the prosecutor said.
Ramirez shot and killed himself after barricading himself inside a home in Long Beach following the carjackings of two vehicles on New Year’s Day 2016, as tactical surveillance units from the LAPD continued to search for Gasparyan, who drove against traffic on the 5 Freeway three days later and fled on foot after the wrong-way crash, according to the deputy district attorney.
As police chased Gasparyan, two officers saw him reach into his pocket and “come up with the gun,” and they shot him as he held a .357-caliber revolver in one of his hands, McKinney told jurors.
Gasparyan’s attorney reserved his opening statement until the beginning of the defense’s case.
In a document released in January 2019, Los Angeles County prosecutors concluded that the force used by Los Angeles police detectives Marcelo Raffi and Peter Miranda was “reasonable under the circumstances in order to defend their lives and the lives of others, and to capture a dangerous, fleeing felon.”
Then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck — who had called Gasparyan a “very, very dangerous individual” — said police had been actively searching for him in connection with the alleged crime spree.
Gasparyan, who has remained in jail since his arrest, could face a potential life prison term if convicted as charged. The District Attorney’s Office opted earlier not to seek the death penalty against him.