Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing of Burbank Police Officer

By On July 24, 2012

After close to nine years after the shooting, the man responsible for the murder of a Burbank Police Officer and the attempted murder of another, was finally sentenced today in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka who was tragically murdered on November 15, 2003

On November 15, 2003, Officer Matthew Pavelka was gunned down in a brutal act of violence. The resulting investigation identified David Garcia as the person responsible for Officer Pavelka’s murder. After a two-week manhunt, David Garcia was arrested and has remained in custody since his arrest.

The shooting occurred in a Ramada Inn parking lot near Burbank Airport. Officer Greg Campbell was on patrol and saw two men sitting in a car without license plates in an area then known for drug and gang-related activity. Officer Campbell radioed for assistance and Officer Pavelka arrived.

David Garcia and Ramon Aranda, 25, began firing on the officers and they returned fire. Both officers were hit. Pavelka, 26, was killed, and Campbell was seriously wounded. Aranda was killed and Garcia fled and was arrested in Tijuana on Thanksgiving Day 2003 following an extensive manhunt.

David Garcia, charged in the murder of Officer Pavelka and the attempted murder of Officer Campbell, was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and all other counts in connection with the 2003 killing.

Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry accepted the plea of Garcia, and imposed the sentence at a hearing this morning. Garcia admitted to the first-degree murder of Officer Pavelka and the attempted murder of Officer Campbell. David Garcia also pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of methamphetamine, two counts each of possession of a machine gun and possession of an assault weapon and one count of possession of a silencer.

Burbank Police Officers remove the flag from Matthew Pavelka's casket during his 2003 funeral. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

In addition, Garcia admitted to two special circumstance allegations: the murder victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties; and the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest.

Today’s sentencing brings to a close a nearly decade long quest for justice for the murder of Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka and the severe wounding of Officer Gregory Campbell.

“This does not bring back Officer Pavelka,” says Burbank City Manager Mike Flad. “Nor does this heal Officer Campbell’s life altering injuries. However, we hope that the sentence brings some closure for Matthew and Greg’s families. Our thoughts have always been with them through this nine-year ordeal.   Justice was delayed, but in the end, justice was served.”

The Burbank Police Officers Association and the Pavelka family has set up a scholarship program and every year award scholarship money to Burbank students to help with their college educations.