Former truck driver, convicted of four murders, dies of ‘asphyxia due to hanging’ on CA’s death row

Louis Peoples in 2007. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP)

SAN QUENTIN — Louis Peoples, the former Stockton-area tow truck driver who used a stolen deputy’s gun to go on a months-long robbery spree that left four people murdered, died in his prison cell on death row this week, state officials announced. Peoples, 58, died Jan.

24 of “asphyxia secondary due to hanging,” said Marin County Coroner’s Office spokeswoman Annette Letsche, though the full death report had not yet been completed. Peoples was sentenced to death in August 2000 and had been at San Quentin State Prison since then.

Peoples’ death sentence was upheld in 2016. From September to November 1997, Peoples stole a gun and robbed a Stockton bank; lured former co-worker James Loper, 29, to a fatal ambush; shot and killed 39-year-old Stephen Chacko during a liquor-store robbery; and gunned down Besun Yu, 56, and Jun Gao, 46, during a convenience-store robbery a week later. The gun was stolen from an off-duty Alameda County sheriff’s deputy on June 21, 1997.

The deputy, a Stockton resident, went to see a sporting event at a park one block from Peoples’ apartment. The deputy — whom Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jim Knudsen declined to identify — later discovered that his 13-shot, 40-caliber Glock automatic pistol, badge and identification card had been stolen from the locked car.

Peoples is believed to have first used the stolen handgun Sept.

16, 1997 when employees at California Spray Dry Co. surprised a robber who shot and wounded one of them. Peoples had worked for the company. A map of Stockton found in Peoples’ apartment contained a circle around his house and the numbers 1 through 8 identifying the location of Stockton businesses, most of them convenience stores.

Staff editor Dennis Akizuki and the Associated Press contributed reporting. 

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