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Gang-Affiliated Gunman Kills Off-Duty Police Officer at Popular Lincoln Heights Taco Stand

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The weekend shooting took place at Ave 26, one of LA’s most popular street food destinations

Ave 26 Tacos in Lincoln Heights
Ave 26 Tacos in Lincoln Heights
Matthew Kang

An off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer was killed over the weekend at the busy Avenue 26 taco stand, after reportedly engaging with a tagger who was spray-painting a wall. Per the LA Times, 24-year-old officer Juan Diaz was with his girlfriend and two of her brothers at the well-known taco stand around 1 a.m. Saturday morning when Diaz came across the unknown assailant, sparking a confrontation. Several of the suspect’s friends then approached, made various threats, and someone brandished a handgun. When Diaz and his group attempted to leave, a suspect fired into Diaz’s vehicle, killing him and wounding another. A source tells the Times that the suspect, who is still at large, was affiliated with the Avenues gang that operates in the area.

Over the years, the Avenue 26 taco stand and various other adjacent, smaller stands and vendors, have become a late night landing place for the greater Eastside, particularly on weekends. The busy taco stand feeds hundreds of people every night off an industrial side street bordered by Lincoln Heights, Glassell Park, and Highland Park to the north. In previous decades, the area was more heavily gang affiliated, though the Avenues gang does still have a presence in the community.

The well-known Avenue 26 taco stand previously made headlines back in 2017 after it was shut down by the Health Department in a surprise raid during service. The owners had their entire setup confiscated, but were down only a matter of days before returning to the same spot to continue to sell tacos. Despite legalization and calls for more transparency, many of the reported 50,000 street food vendors across Los Angeles County still find themselves butting up against the health department and police over time.

So far, no arrests have been made in the shooting of officer Diaz. Police are asking for help in identifying suspects as the investigation continues.

Avenue 26 tacos. Avenue 26 at Humboldt St., Los Angeles.

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