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Man charged with murder for shooting UPS driver in his truck in Irvine

UPS driver stalked, ambushed with hail of bullets by childhood bestfriend
UPS driver stalked, ambushed with hail of bullets by childhood bestfriend 02:44

The 46-year-old man accused of gunning down an on-duty UPS driver in Irvine was charged Monday with murder. 

Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza, also a UPS employee, is accused of killing Expedito Cuesta De Leon, 50, while De Leon was sitting in his work truck. The Orange County District Attorney said Fontanoza shot his childhood friend 14 times in 19 seconds. 

If convicted as charged, Fontanoza will be eligible for the death penalty. He is being held without bail. 

On May 16, police found De Leon slumped over in the driver's seat of his UPS truck at Chrysler and Fleming, according to the Irvine Police Department. Prosecutors said he still had his scanner in his hand and his seatbelt buckled.

"Mr. De Leon was just going about his day, doing his job with no idea his longtime friend was stalking him with every intent to kill him," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. "The depravity involved to plot and carry out a plan to execute someone you shared a lifetime of memories is not something anyone of us can wrap our heads around."   

Officers pulled De Leon from the truck and performed life-saving efforts, but he died from his injuries. 

Prosecutors said Fontanoza stopped another UPS driver a few hours before the shooting, trying to figure out which route De Leon was on. When the driver told him De Leon was on a different route for the day, Fontanoza drove to the UPS Aliso Viejo substation to pull a map with all of the carrier routes. 

Once he found De Leon's route, he snapped a picture of it and tracked him down in a vehicle De Leon would not recognize. 

Surveillance footage showed the suspect's silver Honda four-door truck pulling up next to the UPS truck before driving away, police said.

Within three hours, police officers found the truck about 15 miles from the crime scene

Officers were seen firing what appeared to be tear gas into the cab of the truck, and a short time later, a police canine was used as the suspect remained in the rear passenger seat. After a brief struggle, officers moved in and pulled the man from the vehicle, taking him into custody.

While prosecutors said De Leon and Fontanoza were childhood friends, the motive behind the killing remains unclear.

Fontanoza went on disability leave before the shooting and was scheduled to return to work on June 1. 

UPS released a statement saying the company is shocked and saddened by the Irvine shooting.

"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."

Friends of De Leon gathered near the spot where he was killed early Friday morning to mourn their loved one. They remembered him as a hard worker, a beloved family man, and an avid mountain biker. 

"I'm so heartbroken right now," said Ramon Amoy. "I can't believe this could be happen to my friend."

Fontanoza was expected to appear for his court arraignment Monday, where he will face a murder charge with a special circumstances allegation of shooting from a vehicle and murder by lying in wait.     

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