UPS Driver Killed in Irvine Was Shot 14 Times

UPS Driver Killed in Irvine Was Shot 14 Times

A UPS delivery driver sits in his truck in New York City, in a file photo. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

5/22/2024

Updated: 5/22/2024

0

SANTA ANA, Calif.—New details emerged May 21 from prosecutors, who said a United Parcel Service driver fatally shot in Irvine last week was gunned down by a co-worker and childhood friend.
Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza, 46, was charged Monday with murder with a special circumstances allegation of a drive-by shooting and murder by lying in wait. He was also facing a sentencing enhancement for shooting a gun causing death.
Mr. Fontanoza is accused of killing 50-year-old Expedito Cuesta De Leon, also of Aliso Viejo.
The shooting occurred at about 3 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Chrysler and Fleming.
Mr. Fontanoza allegedly stopped a UPS driver at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday asking if that route was the one assigned to Mr. De Leon, and when he was told the victim had another route, the defendant went to the company’s Aliso Viejo station, where he is accused of using a computer there to show driver’s routes, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Fontanoza, who was on disability leave, was scheduled to return to work June 1, prosecutors said.
The defendant, who was in a new vehicle the victim likely wouldn’t recognize, tracked Mr. De Leon down on his route and shot him from a pickup truck after the victim made a delivery and got back in his truck, prosecutors alleged. The victim was shot 14 times in 19 seconds, prosecutors said.
Surveillance footage showed the suspect’s silver Honda Ridgeline 4-door truck pulling up next to the UPS truck before fleeing on Goodyear toward Jeronimo, police said.
Following the shooting, authorities radioed law enforcement in the area with a suspect description, and just before 4 p.m. Thursday, a sheriff’s deputy found a match on Santiago Canyon Road, and the pickup was stopped near Chapman Avenue. Video from the scene around 6 p.m. showed the pickup pinned by a pair of armored SWAT vehicles, with additional officers stationed on a hillside above the standoff.
At about 6:15 p.m., officers were seen firing tear gas into the cab of the truck, and a short time later a police dog was deployed, engaging the suspect in the rear passenger seat of the vehicle. After a short struggle, officers moved in and pulled the man from the vehicle and took him into custody.
Mr. Fontanoza was hospitalized following his arrest, but the extent of his injuries was unclear.
The defendant did not enter a plea at his arraignment Monday, and the hearing was rescheduled for June 10 in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Authorities have not released any possible motive for the killing.
“We are shocked and saddened by the latest developments in Irvine,” UPS said in a statement. “These are highly unusual circumstances and do not represent the culture of our company and the camaraderie among our employees around the world. Our focus now is on supporting our people and their loved ones during this extremely difficult time. Since the investigation is ongoing, we defer any additional questions to the investigating authorities.”
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