Leonard Moreno, Age 15, Arrested in Shooting Death of MCSO Jail Officer Jorge Vargas
Left to right: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Police Chief Daniel Garcia, and City Councilman Michael Nowakowski.
Photo by Matthew Hendley
The accused killer of Maricopa County Sheriff's Office jail guard is just 15 years old.
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia announced the arrest this afternoon, saying Leonard Moreno, a 15-year-old, drug-dealing gangster, is the one accused of shooting Officer Jorge Vargas outside his home last month.
Moreno has already been in jail for two or three weeks, for participating in an unrelated drive-by shooting, Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump said.
Crump said Moreno was walking home from a party after 3 a.m. on August 8, and Vargas' home was on the way. Crump said detectives believe Moreno, who was "high, drunk, and armed," shot and killed Vargas after seeing Vargas on his driveway, getting ready to leave for an early shift at one of the jails.
Police aren't sure whether Moreno shot Vargas because he was a law-enforcement officer. Vargas was wearing at least part of his uniform when he was shot, but police do believe it was a random shooting, in the sense that it probably wouldn't have happened if Vargas' house was not between Moreno's house and the party.
Police didn't reveal all the evidence that links Moreno to the crime. Crump says ballistics testing matched the bullet casings at the murder scene to that drive-by shooting Moreno was allegedly involved in a few days after the murder. Crump says DNA also links Moreno to the crime, as do social-media postings subpoenaed by police. However, he says police did not recover the murder weapon.
There have been three other arrests in the case, including Moreno's mother, and Crump said there will likely be more, all for hindering prosecution and witness tampering. Detectives believe Moreno acted alone in the shooting.feedback and tips to the author.
Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.