A local man accused of using a baseball bat to fatally beat a man outside a Target store in Azusa pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge.
Manuel Banuelos — also known as Rafael Banuelos — is charged in the June 10 attack on Richard Jaimez Jr., 37.
The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait, along with an allegation that Banuelos used a bat as a deadly and dangerous weapon.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against the 23-year-old defendant.
Officers were sent to the 800 block of North Azusa Avenue, between West Ninth Street and West Foothill Boulevard in connection with a report of a man being beaten with a baseball bat, according to Azusa Police Lt. Robert Chivas.
Witnesses told officers the suspect was holding a bat as he waited for the victim at the bottom of a staircase that leads to the Target store.
The entire incident was reportedly captured on video.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the attack.
The victim was unresponsive and bleeding from his head when officers got to the scene, Chivas said. He died of blunt force trauma to the head at a hospital the next day, according to records from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
Authorities said Banuelos was quickly apprehended at the Metro Gold Line station across the street, which is near Azusa Police Department headquarters. He has been held without bail since then, according to jail records.
The homicide was the first in Azusa since the fatal pre-dawn shooting of a 22-year-old man on Christmas Day, the last of the city’s five homicides in 2019, Chivas told City News Service.