Part of a human skull with a bullet hole and other bones found in the ocean off San Diego belong to a man suspected of gunning down a former Afghan government official-turned cab driver, police said Friday.
DNA testing has confirmed that the bones found off the coast of La Jolla several weeks ago are those of 28-year-old Ismael Lopez, homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney said.
The San Diego County medical examiner's office will determine whether he committed suicide.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Lopez in connection with the Sept. 28 shooting of Mir Najibullah Sadat Sahou. He is believed to have been the passenger in Sahou's cab who shot him and left his body on La Jolla Scenic Drive, Rooney said.
Witnesses reported seeing a cab pull to the curb around 11:30 p.m. that night and two people getting out. They moved to the rear of the cab and began to argue but the words were unclear, Rooney said.
"Several gunshots rang out. Mr. Sahou collapsed to the ground right there on the sidewalk" while the other man stole the cab, Rooney said.
It was too dark for witnesses to make out the killer's face but physical evidence at the scene pointed to Lopez, Rooney said.
The car was later found abandoned in downtown La Jolla. It bore scrapes matching the paint on a fence bordering an oceanfront road. If the car had gone through the fence it would have plunged off a steep drop into the ocean.
"We wondered amongst ourselves that evening: Was that a conscious thought on the driver's part" to commit suicide, Rooney said.
Divers in October and November reported seeing human bones about 150 yards offshore of La Jolla about a mile from where the cab was found. One diver recovered some bones on Nov. 15.
Police and lifeguard divers later recovered more remains, including a piece of skull with a bullet exit wound, in about a 600-square-foot area near an underwater reef, Rooney said.
Some bones had collected in holes on the ocean floor, he said.
Sahou, a father of four, was governor of Afghan's central bank before he and his wife were granted political asylum in the United States in the 1990s, family members have said.
He also hosted "To Find the Truth," a weekly talk show on Afghan affairs, on Irvine-based Ariana Afghanistan International TV.
Some relatives have asked whether the killing might have political overtones while others believe it was a violent robbery.
Investigators have found no evidence that Lopez knew Sahou before the killing or that he had any accomplices, Rooney said.
"It may have been just a robbery that went ... horribly bad," he said.
Lopez had a 2008 conviction for having illegal sex with a boy who was 13 at the time, according to court records cited by the San Diego Union-Tribune.