Two Montebello men pleaded guilty Monday to the 2015 slaying of a Downey police officer who was shot once in the face while sitting in his BMW in a parking lot near the police station.
Steven Knott, 22, and Jeremy Anthony Alvarez, 25, are set to be sentenced April 17 for the Nov. 18, 2015, slaying of Officer Ricardo Galvez.
They also pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from a seven-victim crime spree in South Gate, Montebello, Bellflower, Paramount and Downey that preceded the shooting of the officer.
Knott pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree murder and attempted robbery with the personal use of a firearm in Galvez' shooting. He faces a term of 50 years to life in prison under the negotiated plea.
Alvarez pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree murder and attempted robbery and faces 30 years to life behind bars.
The duo, who are half-brothers, also admitted an attempted murder in Montebello on October 18, 2015, and shooting at an inhabited dwelling in South Gate on September 17, 2015 -- as well as a takeover robbery of two victims at a Bellflower cell phone store and a street robbery in Paramount shortly before Galvez' murder.
The pair also admitted multiple gang and gun allegations.
Local news from across Southern California
Galvez, a former U.S. Marine and five-year veteran of the Downey Police Department, was dressed in plain clothes after working with the department's K-9 team when he was shot as he sat in his personal car in the police station parking lot, prosecutors said.
Alvarez, the getaway driver, was arrested after a wild pursuit that was caught on dash-camera video recorded from the patrol car of a Downey police officer who heard the gunshot in the area of the parking lot and began chasing the Nissan Altima.
Knott and a 16-year-old boy were arrested the next morning. The teenager subsequently admitted a Juvenile Court petition charging him with Galvez's murder and attempted robbery and a robbery count involving another man the same day, and faces confinement in a state juvenile facility until he is 25.
Investigators recovered a handgun that was thrown out of the vehicle. DNA testing and fingerprint analysis linked Knott to the weapon, according to stipulations agreed to by the prosecution and the defense at the hearing in 2017.
Prosecutors say ballistics tests determined that the gun had been used to kill the 29-year-old officer, who had served two tours of duty -- one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan -- in the Marine Corps prior to becoming a police officer.
In emotional testimony in September 2017, Downey police Lt. Brian Baker said he walked out to the parking lot to investigate what might have happened after speaking on the phone with Officer Justin Prentice, who had chased the light-colored Altima to Montebello.
The police lieutenant said he did not initially recognize Galvez or his car, and only realized that the victim was his colleague after looking through the vehicle's windshield.
"That's when I recognized it was Ricky. When I recognized him, I couldn't believe what I was seeing,'' Baker said of the former Marine, who had been on the police force for five years.
Baker said he saw the BMW running and noticed a bullet hole in the driver's side window, then directed a sergeant to break the passenger window of the locked car. The sergeant determined that the officer was dead, and a check of the vehicle's registration confirmed the car belonged to Galvez, Baker said.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Biddle testified that the suspects' attempt to rob Galvan "wasn't completed. They didn't get anything inside the car. The gun went off and they fled."
When he was shown a still photo from surveillance camera footage in the parking lot, the teenager subsequently admitted that he and Knott had approached the BMW -- one from each side -- while Alvarez remained inside the Nissan Altima, Biddle testified.
The teenager subsequently was tape-recorded in jailhouse conversations in which he admitted being involved in the crime and saying that the three formulated a plan to rob Galvez, according to the sheriff's sergeant. The teenager said he and Knott wore masks made of pieces of cloth over their faces.
Under cross-examination, Biddle said the teenager claimed the gun wielded by Knott had gone off accidentally.