Local consultant Steve Spernak has asked us to post about a candlelight vigil he is organizing on Friday, April 29 at 5:00 p.m. in the Grandstand Parking Lot at the Irwindale Speedway. The vigil is a project of The March for Justice (which Spernak is directing) and is being held in remembrance of L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy David March, who was gunned down in cold blood when he pulled over Armadno Garcia for a routine traffic stop. Garcia subsequently fled to his native Mexico, where he remains. You can read the March 23, 2005 Frank Mickadeit column below for a more complete account this crime and The March for Justice:
Two Bucks Puts Ex-Cop On Fugitive's Trail
It's the cheapest contract Lake Forest political consultant Steve Spernak has ever signed. A $1 retainer and another $1 when the job is finished.
It might also be the most difficult job he's ever signed on for.
For two bucks, Spernak - a former cop - has agreed to help the parents of a slain L.A. County sheriff's deputy bring the suspect in their son's killing to justice. Not only is the suspect at large, but he's believed to be in Mexico.
David March was 33 years old, a well-conditioned 6-foot-5 and wearing a bulletproof vest when he pulled over a car for a routine traffic stop in Irwindale on April 29, 2002. The lone man in the car was just 5-foot-9 and a bloated 230 pounds. It was about 10:40 a.m., broad daylight.
But the man whom authorities have identified as that motorist was a known drug courier and the suspect in an attempted murder. He had vowed he'd never be taken by police - a true desperado. He pulled out a 9-mm pistol and shot March in a part of his torso the vest didn't cover. March fell to the pavement, never drawing his own gun. The motorist then got out of the car and shot March in the head to ensure he would die.
The suspect, Jose Arroyo Garcia, who goes by Armando Garcia, fled to his native Mexico. He is shielded from deportation there because Mexico will not send its citizens back to countries to stand trial for crimes that could bring the death penalty or life in prison.
Spernak heard the story from March's parents last year when he was running a congressional campaign in L.A. County. Spernak was a full-time cop in Cypress and is currently an O.C. reserve deputy sheriff.
"It was every cop's nightmare," Spernak said yesterday as he recalled the circumstances of March's last traffic stop. "It was a whole new level of brutality," he said of the final shot to the head. "That's what got to me. That was my line in the sand."
So, Spernak earlier this year signed a $2 personal-services agreement to be the executive director of the "March for Justice" campaign. The formal launch will be April 29 with a candlelight vigil in Irwindale.
Nobody really knows how many suspects in violent crimes have fled to Mexico. Jan Maurizi, an L.A. County deputy district attorney knows of about 350 Southern California suspects in Mexico, including some from O.C. But that is surely an undercount, she said. In theory, these people can be caught and prosecuted in Mexico by Mexican police under Mexican law, but Maurizi said Mexican authorities seem to be working on only about 20 percent of the cases. Extradition is possible in such cases only if U.S. authorities are willing to reduce the charges to crimes that don't call for the death penalty or life in prison.
Spernak wants to change Mexican law altogether. He is pulling together regional leaders like L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, family of other victims and law-enforcement activists to lobby U.S. leaders who have influence with Mexican leaders. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is already on board. Spernak said his group is "on the bubble" for a meeting next month with President George W. Bush.
On the Mexican front, Spernak will start to screen Mexican presidential candidates (Mexico's election is next year) for their positions on extradition. The Mexican Legislature is on the verge of allowing Mexican citizens living in the United States to vote in the election without having to return to Mexico.
"There are 10 million Mexican (voters) living in the United States," Spernak said. "We can turn an election on that."
I'm usually not much for candle light vigils, but this is a worthy cause. E-mail Spernak for more information about the vigil or how you can get involved in The March for Justice.