Before dawn on Easter Sunday, Tommie Hayes and Kevin "KK" Cohen, both black men, were shot and killed in the first-floor lounge of the Lamp Lodge, a respected skid row facility at Stanford Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Lamont Ward, a 41-year old black man, Richard Luna, a 28-year-old Latino, and Shanana Flores, 33 year-old Latina, have been charged in connection with the killings, which were the first of the year in downtown. Ward and Flores are scheduled to be arraigned today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Times' Ari Bloomekatz reports on alleged drug dealing at the facility that police say led to a murder-for-hire with Hayes as the intended victim:
A respected skid row facility that provides shelter and counseling to homeless people became a site for drug dealing, leading to a double homicide inside the Lamp Lodge earlier this year, according to police detectives and court records.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives allege that dealers sold rock cocaine and heroin out of the Lamp Lodge for months, a practice that ended after one of the alleged drug dealers and another man were shot to death there in April.
Lamp officials said claims of widespread drug dealing at the facility are overblown. They said Lamp strives to protect its residents from exposure to criminal conduct, a difficult task in an area that has long been considered the city's largest open-air drug bazaar.
"It was really the Wild West out there," said Casey Horan, executive director of Lamp, describing the crime around the Lamp Lodge. "We were aware that this is bleeding through our doors."
But the crimes have some community leaders concerned and questioning whether Lamp has done enough to prevent crime in its facilities.
"Historically, the agency has played a key role in skid row," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes part of skid row.
"Recent events raise serious concerns about the agency and their ability to safely manage their properties," she said.
The case underscores the difficulty of keeping even "safe zones" free of narcotics activities in such a drug-plagued area, despite efforts by the LAPD in recent years to crack down on skid row crime.
Photos: left, Kevin Cohen; right, Tommie Hayes. Credit: California Department of Motor Vehicles