While driving through the darkened streets of Silver Lake earlier this month, restaurant worker Juan David Vasquez Loma motioned the driver of the car behind him to pass. But the driver of that car, 18-year-old Jose Beltran, who is involved in the La Mirada Locos gang, may have misinterpreted Loma’s hand gesture as a rival gang sign shortly before he fired a handgun that mortally wounded Loma, police said. A homicide detective said today that those mistaken hand signals may have played a role in the August 7 road rage killing of Loma, a 20-year-old Mexican immigrant who was driving coworkers home. Loma was not a gang member. Beltran, who grew up in the Silver Lake area, was charged on Monday with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Police said they believe Beltran became enraged when Loma’s pick-up truck passed him at the intersection of Micheltorena and Effie streets. Beltran was making hand gestures as he pursued Loma’s vehicle down the hillside streets, according to Dect. Jose Carrillo with the Northeast Division. “He was trying to threaten the victims,” Carillo said. After reaching Silver Lake Boulevard near Scott Place, Beltran drove up alongside Loma’s truck and fired a shot, police said. The bullet struck Loma in the head. He was taken off life support a week later. Two other passengers in the truck were not injured.
Beltran was arrested by Rampart Division officers on Aug. 19 during a traffic stop. Officers found a gun under the driver’s seat but police do not know if the weapon was used in the Loma shooting, Carillo said.
The LAPD is still seeking more information on Beltran and the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call the Northeast Division homicide detectives at (213) 847-4261