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Pico Gang Member Charged in Carter Slaying

By Jorge Casuso

April 8 -- A 17-year-old Pico Neighborhood gang member was charged Thursday with the 2003 murder of Jalonnie D. Carter, who was gunned down near his home in the crime prone neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office.

Mathew Felix Vargas, aka “Lil Rooster,” was engaged in gang activity when he shot Carter on September 2, 2003 in an alley on the 1800 block of 20th street, according to the DA’s complaint filed in Superior Court.

The murder, the complaint said, was “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang with the specific intent to promote, further and assist in criminal conduct by gang members.”

If convicted, Vargas faces 25 years to life in prison, said Sandi Gibbons, the spokeswoman for the DA. Bail has been set at $2 million.

Vargas was taken into custody last month and booked at Santa Monica jail, said Police Chief James T. Butts, Jr.

Vargas , who will turn 18 later this month, was being held at juvenile hall in Sylmar when police tied him to Carter’s slaying, Butts said.

A firearm and other evidence led to the charges against Vargas, who was also charged with "gang enhancement," three counts of personal use of a gun causing great bodily injury and intentional discharge of a firearm, Butts said.

Carter, 19, died from a .22-caliber bullet wound that pierced his back and struck his heart as he stood near the small apartment he shared with his mother and stepfather in a crime-prone pocket of the Pico Neighborhood.

Carter's shooting occurred in the same area where five shootings had taken place earlier that year. No one was injured in the shootings, which took place between May 9 and June 5.

Three days after Carter’s slaying, police arrested a 21-year-old Hispanic resident of Santa Monica in connection with the killing, but the DA found there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges against him.

Hundreds packed into the funeral services for Carter, a Olympic High School graduate who was studying to become an accountant.

Carter’s mother, Shirley Joseph, believed her son’s killing remained unsolved because residents were scared to talk to police.

Last April, the City Council authorized a $25,000 reward for information leading to the suspect.

"Somebody knows something," Joseph told the council. "But they're not telling because they're afraid. A lot of parents are not speaking up."

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