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Dispatch: 'There was always a problem over there with fighting or drugs'

September 5, 2009 | 12:51 pm

The house at West 3rd Street and South Coronado street in Westlake where Juan Velasquez, 29-year-old Latino, lived and was found dead the evening of Aug. 24. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times

Juan Velasquez, a 29-year-old Latino, was found in his backyard late on the evening of Monday, Aug. 24. He'd been shot at least four times in his head, neck and arm, and he was pronounced dead on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

The location of Juan Velasquez's shooting. Click for demographic information about this area.

Velasquez lived in a small house with three roommates at the corner of West 3rd Street and South Coronado street in Westlake. Prior to the shooting, all four tenants had been told to vacate the home by the end of September because it had become a neighborhood magnet for loud parties and “weirdos,” said Ahmed Abdel Fatah, who helps manage the property.

The house had become so notorious for noise,  alcohol, and people coming and going at all hours that the police were investigating the complaints. In fact, said Det. Chris Linscomb, authorities had planned a response -- for later on the day that Velasquez was pronounced dead -- to attempt to mitigate the problem.

Linscomb said the motive in the killing is still under investigation, but he did have a few theories. He said he suspects Velasquez may have owed someone money, or that he could have made an enemy of someone in the area.

Police have one male suspect in custody whom they cannot identify because he is a minor, Linscomb said. He added that the suspect is likely not the only person involved in the killing, and that police are still looking for others.

It was not clear what time the shooting took place. Linscomb said police initially went to the home at about 8:30 p.m., when they received a report of shots being fired. At that time, he said, officers could find no witnesses to the shooting.

Later the same evening, Velasquez’s body was discovered in the backyard, hidden from view. Linscomb declined to provide information about why the police returned to the scene but said he suspected Velasquez had been shot earlier in the evening, since no more reports of shots fired nearby were made that night.

Velasquez was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, according to coroner’s officials.

Abdel Fatah said Velasquez was generally a quiet, nice person, but he had shown signs of trouble. He said two weeks before the shooting, Velasquez was ill and unable to leave his home because of a “stab-like” injury to his right chest near his shoulder. Abdel Fatah and his co-workers brought him food and medicine for several days until he recovered.

Abdel Fatah also said he had heard from neighbors and other people in the area that Velasquez and his roommates were operating an after-hours bar in the home, regularly playing loud music and charging people for alcohol.

“There were people in and out of there at all hours,” he said. “There was always a problem over there with fighting or drugs … the neighbors would complain about bottles in the back of the house.”

Now, he said, Velasquez’s three roommates have left and not returned.

-- Anthony Pesce

Follow the Homicide Report on Twitter @latimeshomicide.

Photo: The house at West 3rd Street and South Coronado street in Westlake where Juan Velasquez lived and was found dead the evening of Aug. 24. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times

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