Teen arrested in murder of MCSO detention officer
by Catherine Holland
Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 9:36 AM
PHOENIX — A 15-year-old has been arrested in the murder of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detention officer.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, the Phoenix Police Department announced that Leonard Moreno, his mother and a 20-year-old man have been arrested in connection with the death of Jorge Vargas, 27. However, police said Moreno acted alone.
“Today, I’m comforted by the fact that we have made an arrest after literally hundreds of hours of investigation,” said Phoenix police Chief Daniel Garcia.
Moreno will be charged as an adult.
Police said Moreno’s mother, Cathy Seymour, will be charged with hindering prosecution. Ivan Montes, 20, was booked for hindering prosecution and disorderly conduct.
Moreno’s criminal history dates back to 2007, according to Juvenile Court records. The documents say Moreno burglarized and vandalized an elementary school in Glendale when he was only nine years old.
In 2011, Moreno faced assault, disorderly conduct, and drug charges. He was put in juvenile detention, and through probation and rehab programs.
Several other people are being questioned in connection with the case and more arrests are possible.
Vargas was shot and killed in the driveway of his home near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road early in the morning of Aug. 8. He was working on his truck, getting ready to go to work.
Police released a sketch of the suspect the next day. The description came from a witness who saw a Hispanic male running from the scene. That sketch was featured on billboards throughout the Valley.
Police said they believe the shooting was likely a random incident. Sgt. Trent Crump said Moreno was high, drunk and armed when he left a party and headed home. Vargas’ home was between the party and Moreno’s residence.
“Leonard Moreno wanted to be a gang member. Leonard Moreno is a drug user … and he acquired a weapon,” Garcia said. “These three categories put together on Aug. 8 resulted in the tragic senseless death of Jorge Vargas.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Moreno has been in jail for unrelated offenses for the past two or three weeks.
Vargas had been with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for eight years. He is survived by his wife and his young son.
PD: Leonard Moreno, 15, arrested in death of MCSO detention officer Jorge Vargas
PHOENIX – A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in the killing of a Maricopa County detention officer who authorities say was targeted at random when he was shot in his own driveway.
In a 1:30 p.m. news conference, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia said authorities arrested Leonard Moreno for the death of 27-year-old Jorge Vargas. Moreno will be charged as an adult with first-degree murder.
Investigators have worked hundreds of hours to try and bring closure for the victim’s family, Garcia said.
“This arrest is the first step in that closure. We owe Jorge that,” the police chief said at a news conference.
Garcia described the suspect as someone who wanted to be a gang member and had acquired a firearm. But police believe Vargas was a random victim and the teenager acted alone.
Vargas was attacked Aug. 8 at 4 a.m. while working on his car outside his home near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road. He was wearing his uniform that identified him as a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office employee.
Investigators don’t know what exactly happened in the driveway before Vargas was shot, Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said.
The teenager had left a party around 3 a.m. while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, according to people who saw him there.
Moreno has been in a Maricopa County jail for the last few weeks facing an aggravated assault charge in an unrelated drive-by shooting, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
“I’m concerned whether the assailant knew our officer was an officer. It’s tough to convince me he didn’t know,” Arpaio said. “Maybe one day, we’ll get a motive from this suspect.”
Crump said the Moreno’s mother and a friend have also been arrested. Cathy Seymour was expected to be charged with hindering prosecution of her son. Ivan Montes, 20, was booked on charges of hindering prosecution and disorderly conduct, Crump said. They both are suspected of trying to get rid of evidence and helping the teen avoid detection from the police.
Another juvenile was arrested on suspicion of witness tampering but was released for a medical issue, police said.
Although investigators have not yet recovered the weapon used to shoot Vargas, Crump said they were able to use shell casings at the scene to tie the teen to the shooting. Investigators also served subpoenas for access to social media, but Crump would not elaborate on what relevance social media had in the case.
Vargas was an eight-year veteran who worked for the sheriff’s Custody Support Bureau in a jail food factory, but he often came into contact with inmates.
Three members of Vargas’ family attended the news conference but declined to speak with reporters.