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Man given life sentence in police officer's murder

Ruling is made immediately following his guilty plea in killing of Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka.

July 24, 2012|By Jason Wells and Veronica Rocha, Times Community News
  • David A. Garcia pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges Tuesday.
David A. Garcia pleaded guilty to first-degree murder… (Times Community…)

David A. Garcia, the man accused of killing Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka in November 2003, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges Tuesday.

Garcia, 28, was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Pavelka, 26, was killed in an exchange of gunfire during a routine stop outside the Ramada Inn after just 10 months on the force. His partner, Officer Gregory Campbell, was wounded as they approached a parked SUV in which Garcia was a passenger. The officers stopped the pair because they suspected a possible drug offense.

“We are pleased the defendant has admitted responsibility for these heinous crimes,” Los Angeles County District Atty. Steve Cooley said in a statement today. “We hope this resolution provides some measure of justice for the brutal murder of Officer Matthew Pavelka and the attempted murder of Officer Gregory Campbell.”

In addition to first-degree murder, Garcia also pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of methamphetamine, two counts each of possession of a machine gun and possession of an assault weapon and one count of possession of a silencer, according to Burbank police.

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He also admitted to two special circumstance allegations: that the murder victim was an on-duty peace officer, and that the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding arrest.

“Today brings closure for the family, the department and the law enforcement community,” said Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse, who took the reins of the department seven years after Pavelka's death. “[Now] there is some type of finality and people can engage in the healing process.... There can be a return to normalcy. It culminated today with the guilty plea.”

The lead prosecutor on the case was slated to attend several upcoming roll calls to answer any questions from Burbank police officers, LaChasse added.

Garcia, who was 19 at the time of his arrest, had alleged officer misconduct during the arrest — a move legal experts said would complicate the trial. He was indicted on the charges in 2004.

In addition to being a death penalty case that involved other federal criminal charges, the case initially was blogged down by talks about a plea agreement. The case was continued in court more than 50 times.

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