Arrests made in triple-slaying at Pico Rivera pizza parlor

Whittier Daily News

Whittier Daily News

By Brian Day, Whittier Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 07/25/2009 08:35:26 PM PDT

PICO RIVERA – Three men were in custody Saturday in connection with a June pizza parlor shooting that left three people dead and seven more wounded.

Rudy Ruiz, 30, of an unincorporated county area near Whittier; Christopher Johnson, 18, of Montebello; and John Perez, 43, of Pico Rivera were all booked Friday on suspicion of murder.

Ruiz surrendered to authorities at about 5 p.m. Friday following a brief car chase, Capt. Michael Rothans of the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station said. Johnson was arrested shortly after at his home.

Perez has been in custody since June 30, following a stolen car chase in Pico Rivera.

All three suspects are believed to have ties to local gangs, officials said.

“There’s till some other people of interest that we’re looking at,” Rothans said. “There are other people who could have been involved. The investigation is by no means complete.”

The June 27 shooting at Falcone’s Pizza occurred about 6:45 p.m. as a group of about 50 motorcycle enthusiasts gathered for a fundraiser in the Falcone’s parking lot, 9247 Slauson Ave.

The fundraiser was hosted by the Old School Riders motorcycle club, which is not believed to have gang ties.

“These individuals entered the location and basically opened fire on the customers there,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Van Damme said.

Cousins Garret Dandini, 25, and Tony Dandini, 39, both of Whittier, as well as Carlos Carrera, 39, of La Habra where all killed. Seven other people were wounded.

Garret Dandini was a Navy recruiter and served three tours of duty in Iraq.

His mother, Helen Dandini, said Saturday afternoon she had not been notified of the arrests.

“I’m shocked,” she said. “But it’s hard to believe it until I hear it from the Sheriff’s Department.”

Officials expect to charge Perez, Johnson and Ruiz on Monday with three counts each of murder, as well as seven counts each of attempted murder, Van Damme said.

Additional charges are possible.

Rothans said officials had been watching Johnson and Ruiz as “people of interest,” but would not say how long.

When arrested on Friday, authorities said both were taken into custody without incident.

Ruiz was initially involved in a brief car chase that went from Washington Boulevard to Slauson Avenue on the southbound 605 Freeway, Van Damme said.

But Ruiz and the driver surrendered when they hit rush-hour traffic, he said. The driver, a man in his 20s, was not arrested.

A few hours later, officials picked up Johnson at his home in the 800 block of Mines Avenue in Montebello, Van Damme said.

Perez is already facing separate charges including carrying a loaded firearm, resisting arrest, drug possession and violating his parole stemming from the June 30 car chase in which he allegedly threw a gun out of the window.

Rothans declined to discuss the results of ballistics tests on that handgun, and whether it matched the gun used in the Falcone’s shooting.

He also declined to discuss what role each suspect may have played in the shooting.

Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives handling the investigation could not be reached for comment Saturday.

A motive in the shooting remained unclear.

“Obviously, it was a very, very tragic incident,” Rothans said. “I’m very happy that the diligent efforts of the homicide detectives and the (local) detectives working this case we were able to get these arrests as soon as they did.”

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