A 26-year-old man reputed to be a member of the Venice 13 street gang has been charged with murder for the July 21 beating death of Venice native Pedro Ruiz, a beloved parent volunteer at Westminster Avenue Elementary School whom police say also had ties to the gang.
Juan Perez was arrested and pleaded not guilty in August. Two other suspects remain at large, LAPD Pacific Division Capt. James Setzer said.
Ruiz, 29, was attacked in an alley between Fifth and Rose avenues and died from blunt force trauma to the head.
LAPD Det. Sean Kinchla, one of the case’s supervisors, said the exact motive for the attack remains unclear but the encounter could have started as a street fight.
“The assailants and the victim were documented gang members. It appears that there was some type of fistfight and that it escalated from there,” Kinchla said. “It was a three-on-one situation.”
Kinchla said he was not certain whether Ruiz had been active or inactive with the gang in recent years.
Ruiz’s murder triggered sadness and shock throughout the Westminster Avenue Elementary community, with the school’s principal describing him as a dedicated volunteer and engaged parent who doted on his two children.
Perez is due to appear at the Airport Courthouse on Oct. 2 for a preliminary hearing. He remains in police custody in lieu of $2 million bail.
— Gary Walker