Four suspected Santa Monica gang members have been arrested in connection with the 2008 fatal beating of a Santa Monica man following a more than yearlong investigation that involved an undercover drug sting and court-authorized wiretaps, police said.
Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman announced at a news conference October 21st that three of the men, Sammy Murphy, 50, Gwindon Love Murphy, 65, and Jason Anthony Hurtado, 26, were each charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney in the killing of Preston Brumfield, 49. The three were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit an assault with a deadly weapon and violations of the state’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, Jackman said.
A fourth suspect who was still outstanding at the time of the conference, Jason Eddie Coleman, 27, was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department 77th Division officers Sunday, October 25th, Santa Monica Sgt. Dave Hunscke said. Coleman was booked for the homicide of Brumfield and two warrants for narcotics possession, Hunscke said.
Brumfield, who was a recognizable street figure to residents in the Pico Neighborhood, died days after he was found severely beaten on the sidewalk in the 1900 block of 20th Street May 11th, 2008. Residents told police that they were outraged over the killing and some have expressed relief after learning of the arrests.
Some city officials also credited the arrests to the commitment of officers who were involved in the over yearlong investigation to bring the alleged killers to justice.
“Investigations like this one take extraordinary commitment and perseverance, and Santa Monica residents can rest easier knowing our police department exemplifies both,” City Councilman Kevin McKeown said.
“The message to wrongdoers is that gang and drug activity in our city will always have consequences.”
The Santa Monica Police Department’s subsequent investigation of the homicide revealed the possible involvement of members of a local street gang known as the “Graveyard Crips,” police spokes- man Sgt. Jay Trisler said.
Jackman noted that the “Graveyard Crips” are considered a small group but they have been very active in alleged gang activity in the area and police believe the arrests can “hopefully loosen up” their operation and some of the fears that neighbors may have.
Working with the district attorney’s office and the California Department of Justice, the police department obtained court approval in late 2008 to conduct wiretapping on suspected gang members who are allegedly responsible for Brumfield’s killing, Trisler said.
The wiretap revealed information related to the homicide investigation, as well as evidence that identified a number of people allegedly involved in illegal drug sales, Trisler said.
Stressing the dedication of officers assigned to the case, Jackman said they “have been working on the case since it happened” and utilized a variety of tools for the case, including one of the first times that wiretaps were used.
“(The officers) were very dedicated to it. They were very imaginative in how they approached getting this case solved,” Jackman said.
An undercover narcotics investigation dubbed “Operation Tombstone” was initiated this year based on communications intercepted during the wiretaps that allegedly identified members of the “Graveyard Crips” as local drug dealers, police said.
The undercover investigation continued until early this month, when police arrested several people for state and federal violations and served search warrants at several Santa Monica residences. In addition to evidence of drug sales, evidence that connects the Murphy brothers, Coleman, and Hurtado to the Brumfield homicide was found, police allege.
Six other suspects, including five men and one woman, have been arrested in connection with narcotics sales activity related to this ongoing investigation, police said.
Police are additionally working in collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to secure federal arrest warrants for four suspected Santa Monica Gang members regarding their participation in street gang activity. The suspects are identified as Florencio Astorga Hernandez, 32, Juan Godinez, 38, Filiberto Garcia Pena, 39, and Mynor Alfonso Chacon, 35, police said.
Anyone with knowledge of the homicide case or the location of the outstanding suspects is encouraged to contact Det. John Henry at (310) 458-8978, Sgt. Ira Rutan at (310) 458-8959 or the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8495.