Former SPPD officer shot, BPD officer’s killer gets life term for 2003 shooting
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 01, 2012
A gang associate who gunned down a rookie Burbank police officer and severely wounded a former Santa Paula police officer in 2003 pleaded guilty July 24 to first-degree murder.
David A. Garcia, 28, a member of notorious Sun Valley street gang, was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Garcia would have faced a possible death sentence had he stood trial for the November 15, 2003, slaying of 26-year-old Officer Matthew Pavelka, who was the first Burbank police officer killed in the line of duty.
Garcia initially eluded arrest after a fierce gunbattle in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn near Burbank Airport that left Pavelka and Garcia’s 25-year-old accomplice, Ramon Aranda, dead. Another Burbank officer, Gregory Campbell, suffered gunshot wounds to the stomach and neck; although severely injured he survived the shooting. Campbell was a SPPD officer for about five years in the late 1980s and received several commendations.
The fatal encounter began when Campbell saw two men sitting in a car without license plates in an area “then known for drug and gang-related activity,” police said. Campbell radioed for help and Pavelka responded; when he stepped out of his vehicle Garcia and Aranda immediately opened fire on the officers. Pavelka, a resident of Simi Valley, was shot 14 times.
After the shoot-out about 200 officers - from the Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles police departments, the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department - followed up on leads on Garcia’s possible whereabouts. He was arrested on Thanksgiving Day 2003 in Tijuana.
The first-degree murder charge to which Garcia pleaded guilty included the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties and murder to avoid arrest. Garcia also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Campbell, along with one count each of transportation of methamphetamine and possession of a silencer and two counts each of possession of a machine gun and possession of an assault weapon that were found in a car and his home.
Garcia also admitted personally discharging a semiautomatic firearm, along with an allegation the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley issued a statement saying his office was “pleased the defendant has admitted responsibility for these heinous crimes. 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.”