A 37-year-old man accused of shooting another man to death at a North Long Beach gas station last month may have acted in self-defense, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Eloy Lobato Jr. was taken into custody on suspicion of murder July 26, one day after he shot Christopher Brito at a Valero gas station, killing him, according to authorities.
But after officers turned the case over to the prosecutors later that week, they declined to file murder or manslaughter charges against Lobato, opting instead to pursue only a weapon charge, which stemmed from police finding a firearm during his arrest.
“A (murder) charge was declined because Lobato could make a reasonable case for self-defense under the circumstances,” said Venusse David, a spokesperson with the DA’s Office. “The investigating officer is in agreement with that decision.”
According to a search warrant filed earlier this month in Long Beach Superior Court, Brito walked into the Valero gas station just after 9 p.m. on July 25.
His ex-girlfriend was working as a clerk that night, but she ignored him because they had recently broken up, and “she did not want to deal with his drug abuse issues,” police say in the warrant.
Sometime between then and 10 p.m., Brito walked back outside of the gas station and approached Lobato, who was sitting inside a car that belonged to Brito’s ex-girlfriend’s father, police say in the warrant.
Though it’s not clear why, an altercation erupted between the two, which then escalated into Lobato shooting Brito in the chest, according to authorities.
By the time officers arrived at the scene minutes later, bystanders, including Brito’s ex-girlfriend, were rendering aid to Brito.
Lobato, meanwhile, was already gone, according to the warrant, fleeing the scene in a silver truck after the shooting.
One witness, however, decided to follow him, according to authorities.
“He told officers that as he followed the truck southbound on Atlantic Avenue, it was traveling at a high rate of speed and had no regard for anyone’s safety as it was cutting vehicles off while making erratic lane changes,” police say in the warrant.
Though the witness later lost track of the truck, he had been able to get close enough to capture the vehicle’s license plate number, police said.
This information, along with video of the shooting captured by gas station cameras, led police to identify Lobato as Brito’s killer, according to the warrant.
Police located Lobato at a motel west of Bixby Knolls the following day and took him into custody in connection to the killing, according to the warrant.
“During an interview with detectives, Lobato admitted to shooting victim Brito,” police wrote, but noted he claimed to have acted in self-defense.
Lobato has since pleaded not guilty to prohibited possesion of a firearm by a felon, and he was released from jail last month after having his bail lowered from $2 million to $35,000, court records show.
Russell Nieto, who was also taken into custody on suspicion of accessory to murder in connection with Brito’s death, now faces one count of prohibited possession of a firearm by a felon, court records show. He has since also been released on $35,000 bail, records show.