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Suspected Gunman in Slaying of Burbank Officer Arrested in Mexico

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) -- A 19-year-old man suspected of shooting to death a rookie officer and wounding another policeman was arrested in Mexico on Thursday for investigation of murder and attempted murder and returned to California, authorities said.

Officer Matthew Pavelka, 26, became the first law enforcement official murdered in the 82-year history of the Burbank Police Department on Nov. 15 when two gunmen showered him and a second officer with gunfire.

Police coordinated an around-clock search following Pavelka's slaying, but the suspected gunman, David A. Garcia, had eluded authorities until his arrest.

Garcia was taken into custody Thursday in a residential area in Tijuana by Mexican authorities, said Police Chief Tom Hoefel during a news conference. Gang members and friends had helped him elude police and escape to Mexico, Hoefel said.

He was expected to be charged Monday and arraigned Tuesday, said District Attorney Steve Cooley. Along with the murder and attempted murder charges, Garcia will be charged with the special allegation of killing a police officer, Cooley said.

"When it comes to murdering one of our police officers, we don't forgive, we don't forget, we don't give up," Cooley said.

The slain officer's father, Michael Pavelka, a 29-year veteran with the Los Angeles Police Department, thanked local and Mexican authorities for apprehending Garcia.

"I'm feeling a sense of relief," he told reporters. "The man is in custody and we can now move on."

Mexican authorities turned Garcia over to U.S. Marshals and Burbank police and he was being held without bail, Hoefel said. Authorities declined to say where he was being held.

The shooting occurred after Garcia and Ramon Aranda, 25, were stopped by Officer Gregory Campbell in a hotel parking lot for driving without license plates. The two men suddenly got out of their vehicle and started shooting, authorities said.

Campbell and Pavelka, who arrived as backup, returned fire and Pavelka and Aranda were killed in the shootout. Campbell, a 15-year veteran, remained hospitalized Thursday in a nearby hospital and watched the press conference announcing Garcia's arrest, said Sgt. William Berry. Campbell, who suffered wounds to the abdomen and neck, is expected to fully recovery, Berry said.

Police have arrested more than 60 people, some of whom are Garcia's friends, family members and gang associates, in the ongoing investigation, Hoefel said. About half of those arrested were taken into custody for investigation of aiding and abetting Garcia, he said. The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

James Garcia, 19, the suspected gunman's twin brother, and Erwin De Leon pleaded innocent earlier this month to six counts, including investigation of illegal arms possession and being an accessory to murder, Berry said.

Thousands of police officers paid their last respects to Pavelka last week in a memorial service in which he was remembered as a happy-go-lucky prankster who was proud of his 10 months of service. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer also attended the service.

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