The second of two unlicensed bail agents accused in the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding fugitive who was gunned down in front of Palm Springs police officers in April pleaded not guilty today to murder and other felony charges.
Lisa Roberta Vargas, 53, was arrested May 20 in connection with the shooting death of 33-year-old David Spann.
Vargas was arraigned at the Banning Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Aug. 17.
Along with murder, she is charged one felony count each of delivering a firearm to a person prohibited from possessing one, and committing perjury by false affidavit.
Vargas, who remains behind bars in lieu of $1 million bail, was on the lam for several weeks before she was arrested in Whittier, where investigators found her inside a home
"with self-inflicted injuries she sustained minutes before" their arrival, according to Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Carroll.
Vargas was transported to an area hospital for treatment of what were described as non-life threatening injuries. She missed three prior arraignment dates due to her injuries. Her son, 36-year-old Fabian Hector Herrera, was arrested the night of the shooting, which occurred about 2:30 a.m. April 23 in the 100 block of East Via Escuela
Authorities say he fired the fatal shots after Spann, wielding a knife, lunged toward him and several police officers inside his home. Herrera's attorney alleges that his client fired the shots only after being ordered to do so by Palm Springs police officers.
Vargas faces a potential life sentence if convicted as charged, as does her son.
The sheriff's department reported that while Spann was wanted by a bail agency, there was no warrant for his arrest issued by a law enforcement agency. Jail records show Spann posted a $100,000 bond April 1 in a misdemeanor restraining-order violation case, although it remains unclear why he was being pursued by the defendants.
Herrera, meanwhile, was "not properly licensed" as a bail agent, and was also prohibited from possessing firearms due to his criminal history, according to sheriff's officials.
Officials said Vargas was also working as a bail agent in connection with Spann's capture, but have not released additional details about the extent of her involvement.
Deputies were initially sent to the Via Escuela location on a report that a bail agent needed assistance in apprehending a fugitive, according to Palm Springs police. Prior to officers being dispatched, police said they spoke to Herrera multiple times, once with him reporting he had planned to arrest the fugitive, and another to say the suspect was holding a knife and that he needed help.
Prior to the officers' arrival, they also received a call from Spann himself, who said someone was trying to break into his home, along with a call from Spann's alarm company to report the same incident. Once on scene, officers contacted the knife-wielding suspect, who refused orders to comply, prompting an officer to use a stun gun on the man, but he continued to defy officers' orders, police said.
Herrera then shot the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene despite life-saving measures performed by first responders, according to police.
No Palm Springs police officer fired a weapon, officials said.
Because Palm Springs police were present during the shooting, investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff's Force Investigations Detail were called in to spearhead the investigation, and later arrested Herrera and Vargas.
Herrera pleaded not guilty last month to charges of murder and for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, body armor and ammunition, along with multiple sentence-enhancing allegations. He is scheduled to appear at the Larson Justice Center in Indio on July 12 for a preliminary hearing.
He has two prior felony convictions, both for assault with a deadly weapon, one in Los Angeles County and the other in Riverside County, court records show.
Vargas has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County.