The Homicide Report

The Times chronicles L.A. County
homicide victims

Category: Dispatches from the Field

Dispatch: 'I put some water on my socks and tried to wipe up the blood. I wiped up as much blood as I could' [Updated]

October 2, 2009 |  4:36 pm
Kevin Harris, 21, was shot and killed in Inglewood on Sept. 20. Credit: Paul Parsons
After her son was shot and killed Sunday, Sept. 20, Kathryn Harris was so consumed with grief she did not eat for days.

“My arms and fingers are starting to take on a skeletal appearance,” she said. “I can’t eat and I can’t sleep. And I cry.”

Kevin Harris, a 21-year old black man, had been sitting in his parked car in front of a music studio on the 3300 block of West 118th Place in Inglewood when he was fatally wounded, authorities said.

His mother wept as she described the phone call that came that night from her son’s father. She spoke of her frantic trip to the studio where the aspiring music composer and producer had been shot several times shortly after 8 p.m.

“I put some water on my socks and tried to wipe up the blood. I wiped up as much blood as I could,” she said. “I got down on my hands and knees and used my hands like they were a broom to sweep up the glass.”

Inglewood Police Department officials have described the shooter as a possible gang member. Harris, however, was not involved in gangs and had no criminal history, said Inglewood police Det. Jose Becerra.

The night her son was killed, Kathryn Harris said, she knew something was wrong. She texted him and called him repeatedly and there was no response. Then, she said, she got the call from his father.

Harris was pronounced dead at the hospital about 40 minutes after the shooting. No witnesses have come forward and police have not named any suspects in his killing, authorities said.

“I was kind of on the verge of suicide,” his mother said. “But there’s no way I would do that because then I would never see God. I would never see my son.”

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Dispatch: 'Anything anybody needed Dominique was there to do it for them'

September 29, 2009 |  2:02 pm

Cox_sized

Dominique Johnson, a 28-year-old black man, was shot in a drive-by assault just before midnight July 4 and died in the hospital shortly after.

On Saturday, his friends and family gathered in Cerritos Park to celebrate what would have been his 29th birthday. There was food and laughter, Johnson's two young children swung from the playground equipment and family members gathered at the picnic tables to talk and play dominoes.

But there was a heaviness to the celebration.

This was the park where Johnson spent his last day celebrating July 4th with his family. Shonda Louden, Johnson's girlfriend, said they had spent all day July 4 in the park celebrating then drove home to set off fireworks in front of his grandmother's house.

Johnson lived with Louden in the 1300 block of North Tamarind Avenue in Compton, about a block away from his grandmother's house. When his family finished setting off fireworks, Johnson and Louden got into his car and drove the short distance back to their home. Louden said she went inside to take a shower as Johnson stayed in his car to talk to a neighbor.

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Dispatch: 'She did not deserve to be beaten … she was a nice gal and she didn’t deserve it'

September 24, 2009 | 12:59 pm

Felicia Tang Lee gardening with her friend Shannon Donnan. Credit: Family photo

Shortly after noon on Friday, Sept. 11, Brian Lee Randone, a 45-year-old white man, called 911 to report that his girlfriend of several months was not breathing.

Authorities found Felicia Tang Lee, a 31-year old Asian woman, dead in the home in the 500 block of West Duarte Road in Monrovia that she shared with Randone.

When responding officers arrived at the scene, they determined the evidence did not support Randone’s account of what happened, said Lt. Liam Gallagher of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Randone was arrested within hours and was charged four days later with killing and torturing Lee. He is in jail in lieu of $2 million bail.

Lee — an actress and model — had been beaten and choked, according to authorities. Prosecutors said torture charges were filed because of the severity of her injures and evidence that she died slowly.

Coroner’s officials said they would not discuss Lee’s specific injuries because they are still waiting for test results. Her official cause of death has been deferred pending those findings.

Randone’s court-appointed attorney did not return calls for comment. He appeared in court Sept. 15, and  his arraignment was continued until Sept. 29. He has not entered a plea.

On paper, at least, the pair seemed an unlikely match.

He was educated as a minister. She had appeared nude in adult films.

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Dispatch: 'I wanted him to do beautiful things with his life'

September 16, 2009 | 11:07 am

Jasson Estrada, 18, was shot and killed May 26 in Inglewood. Months after his death, Estrada's framed photo remains one of the few items on display in his mother's homeJasson Estrada made friends easily. He was friends with the smart kids, the kids who ditched school and the kids who were in gangs.

When some of those friends wanted to initiate him into a local gang, his sister told him that if he joined a gang, he would be asked to do “bad things.” He resisted their efforts.

But on Tuesday, May 26, authorities said it was Estrada's friendship with gang members that led to his death. Estrada, an 18-year old Latino, was shot multiple times in the chest just after 7 p.m. in what Inglewood police Det. Lloyd Waters describes as a gang shooting at La Lumbre, a taco shop near 107th Street and Prairie Avenue.

Location of Jasson Estrada's shooting in the 10700 block of Prairie Ave. in InglewoodPolice have no suspects in the shooting. Their primary witness, Adrian Alejandro Dimas-Maya, a 23-year old Latino, who had gone with Estrada to La Lumbre, was found dead four days later in a car near Castaic Lake. His body was burned, wrapped in a rug and left in the trunk of a car.

On the evening that Estrada was shot he was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

He was the first of his siblings to be born in the United States. Before he was born, his mother, Santos Hercules, emigrated from El Salvador with his older brother and two sisters. She had high hopes for her second son.

In the living room of her Inglewood home months after his death, Hercules caresses Estrada's photo and weeps at the mention of his name. "I wanted him to do beautiful things with his life," she said in Spanish.

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Dispatch: 'Working homicides is a very stressful job... I needed a break from death'

September 8, 2009 | 12:26 pm

A flier distributed by the L.A. County sheriff's missing person unitSeveral weeks ago, the Homicide Report provided an account of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is based in Commerce.

In a small corner of the bureau is the Missing Persons Unit. The four-person team, made up of a sergeant, two investigators and secretary, receives 150 to 200 reports of missing persons each month. More than 95% of the 2,200 or so cases it handles each year are resolved, according to sheriff’s statistics from 2008.

Detective Diane Harris has been with the unit since 2002. She began her career with the department in 1977 as a jail deputy. After working patrol at the Temple Station and as a detective investigating crimes in progress, Harris joined the Homicide Bureau in 1997. She left that unit after five years.

“Working homicides is a very stressful job. I needed a break. I needed a break from death. Dealing with the families, the emotions ... sometimes you can’t solve the crimes and it gets too hard,” she said. “The longer you stay there, the longer the cases pile up behind you.”

Harris joked about switching to Missing Persons: "I actually get to deal with live people."

But, she said, there are a lot of misconceptions about filing a missing-person claim, namely that an individual has to be away a certain amount of time before a report can be made.

“In the state of California, there is no required time to file a report,” she said. Additionally, a person does not have to be a blood relative to make a claim. One can file a missing-person report anytime, anywhere, although it remains best to file with the station where the missing person resides or was last seen.

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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


Dispatch: 'It's always the good kids, that's the sad part about it'

August 28, 2009 |  5:40 pm

A street memorial for Samuel Leonard, a 22-year-old black man. Leonard was shot while getting into his car at the intersection of West Century Boulevard and Hobart Boulevard in Gramercy Park. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times

Samuel Leonard, a 22-year-old black man, was shot and killed in the 1700 block of West Century Boulevard in Gramercy Park on Saturday, Aug. 22, according to Los Angeles police.

The location of Samuel Leonard's killing. Click for demographic information about this killing.

Leonard was leaving Shyrea's Liquor at the intersection of West Century Boulevard and Hobart Boulevard about 8 p.m. when he was approached by an unidentified black man, police said. The man shot him several times, then got into a red pickup truck and drove away north on Hobart Boulevard, police said.

Leonard managed to run but collapsed at a nearby McDonalds restaurant. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

This afternoon friends and neighbors of Leonard gathered at memorial set up at the site of his shooting. Surrounded by caution tape, the display included 22 votive candles, more than 10 bouquets, two pictures, and a handful of stuffed animals.

Albert Tyson, 45, said he lived across the street from Leonard and had known him since he was 14 or 15 years old.

"He was a good kid," Tyson said. "He didn't get into any trouble. He didn't use drugs."

Tashika Brackens, 32, lived down the street from Leonard. She said her husband was friends with him, and he would frequently drop by her home to say hello to her two young daughters or ask what they were making for dinner.

"He would talk to anybody. He was real friendly," she said. "I had seen him that morning.... I think someone was just jealous he had a good job and a good car."

She said Leonard worked at LAX in the baggage claim department but wanted to get a job with her as a bus driver and, eventually, to go back to school.

"It's always the good kids, that's the sad part about it," she said. "I just don't understand, just don't understand. He was like a little brother to me."

Though there were several visitors to Leonard's memorial, people did not linger.

"People get shot up at memorials now," Tyson said. "I don't want to stay too long."

Anyone with information about this killing is asked to call LAPD 77th Division Dets. F. Weber or Y. Mun at 323-485-1383.

-- Anthony Pesce in Gramercy Park

Photo: A street memorial for Samuel Leonard, a 22-year-old black man. Leonard was shot while getting into his car at the intersection of West Century Boulevard and Hobart Boulevard in Gramercy Park. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times

Dispatch: 'I felt in my gut that there was something wrong... I can't explain it'

August 21, 2009 | 10:41 am
The area at Venice Beach where Nathan Morgan was found beaten and half buried in the sand in March 2008. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times.
Nathan Alan Morgan, a 25-year-old white man, was found beaten to death and buried under a mound of sand shortly before 8 a.m. on March 10, 2008. Morgan’s battered body was discovered by a Parks and Recreation employee in an area of Venice Beach known as the drum circle.  Paramedics called to the scene pronounced him dead.
 
More than a year after his killing, the circumstances surrounding his death remain hazy.

Morgan's body was discovered just hours after he had been treated in Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center's emergency room for an injury to his left elbow. Coroner’s records show that he told hospital officials he had hurt himself while “doing gymnastics drunk.”

Nathan Morgan, who was found beaten to death March 10, 2008 in Venice. Credit: Family photo After his death, Morgan's parents learned he had traveled to Los Angeles from Portland, Ore., arriving in Southern California a few days before he was beaten to death.

His parents, who still live in the small farming town of Wauseon, Ohio, where their son grew up, said they raised him as a Christian. When Morgan was younger he would go to jails to speak to inmates about his faith and what it had done for him, said Richard Morgan, 49.

The Morgans said their son had worked a series of odd jobs since graduating from high school. He moved to Indiana, where he had a job making fiberglass swimming pools, he also worked in a steel mill and once had a job manufacturing car parts. At times he lived with his twin sister.

For several years, Nathan Morgan had worked as a telemarketer, traveling from Toledo, Ohio, to Atlantic City, then to Portland. His most recent job was selling magazine subscriptions.
 
"He moved around a lot," said his mother, Susan. "He wanted to see the world, he was always a free spirit."

Every time he would visit a new place he would save a rock to give to his grandmother, a collection that she treasured deeply.
 
By his late teens, however, his parents said Morgan had developed a drug and alcohol addiction. They acknowledge that his substance abuse could have played a part in his death.

“Nathan did have a drug and alcohol problem; it was an up and down battle for him,” his father said.  “When he was clean and sober he was a great kid. Sometimes people can’t get out from underneath it, and they relapse. If he could have gotten control of that he could be alive.”
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Dispatch: 'I've always wanted to do it'

August 14, 2009 |  3:17 pm

Case files fill the shelves at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's homicide bureau in Commerce. Credit: Sarah Ardalani/Los Angeles TimesThe Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide bureau is tucked into small, nondescript office park in Commerce, about eight miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Inside, there are no high-tech displays for case details, no state-of-the-art crime solving equipment. There are no interrogation rooms. The detectives do not even have their own cubicles; desks are littered with paperwork.

Sgt. Barry Hall has been assigned to the bureau for eight years.

Sgt. Barry Hall, left, and Sgt. Rick Biddle, right, work homicides for the L.A. County Sheriff's department.  “I’ve always wanted to do it,” said the Texas native, who calls working closely with a partner one of the best parts of the job.

As of Aug. 5, the bureau had handled 144 homicides of the roughly 460 throughout the county. Year-to-date homicides are down about 36% from 2005 and nearly 11% from last year, according to department statistics.

The busiest, and bloodiest, days often come over the weekend or on holidays. Most often, Hall said, the call comes late at night or in the early morning.

The 90 homicide detectives work in two-person teams. They call the large, brown files they keep for each case “poor boys,” a name that has been around so long, no one could recall its origin.

Each set of partners is assigned to one of six larger teams that share shift rotations. Between half a dozen and a dozen detectives are on a team at any given time, all headed by a lieutenant.

At each homicide scene, Hall said, the first officers to arrive “hold the scene and tape it off.” When the homicide bureau is notified of a new case, detectives look to a large board at the front desk to see who will catch it.

Norma Ogurek, who tracks statistics for the bureau, said roughly 50% to 60% of their cases are solved.

Ogurek said about half the homicides handled by the bureau are classified as gang-related, meaning that authorities believe that the suspect, the victim or both are affiliated with a gang. The closure rate for gang-related homicides is about 30%, Ogurek said.

Such cases are often harder to close for a variety of factors, Hall said. Gang-related homicides tend to happen in the middle of the night with few witnesses. Hall said that even when there are witnesses, it can be difficult to get them to talk.

-- Anthony Pesce and Sarah Ardalani reporting from Commerce

Photos: Case files fill the shelves at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department homicide bureau in Commerce. And Sgt. Barry Hall, left, and his partner, Sgt. Rick Biddle, work at the homicide bureau.

Credit: Sarah Ardalani / Los Angeles Times


Update: Police allege drug dealing led to double homicide at skid row facility

August 12, 2009 |  1:08 pm

Kevin KK Cohen who was shot and killed Sunday, April 12

Tommie Hayes who was shot and killed Sunday, April 12Before 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.

Read more: Drugs were dealt at Los Angeles skid row haven, police say

Photos:  left, Kevin Cohen;  right, Tommie Hayes. Credit: California Department of Motor Vehicles


Dispatch: 'It's still a mystery why he was on that street'

August 10, 2009 |  8:58 pm

Street memorial for Akop Aduryan, 46, at the site of his shooting July 23 in the 7500 block of Goodland Avenue in Sun Valley

Seventeen years ago, Akop Aduryan moved to Los Angeles from his native Armenia, hoping to make a better life for his young family.

His country was war torn and in economic shambles after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Together, he and his wife, Ruzanna, who was pregnant with their second child, decided to start over in America.

Nine days after they arrived, his wife gave birth to another son. They shared a small three-bedroom home in North Hollywood with 12 family members.

Aduryan, who had received two degrees in Armenia, worked making jewelry with his brother to support his family. After they moved into their own apartment, he and his brother worked together as mechanics. With money still tight, four years ago he took a second job as a night security guard.

Each weeknight his routine was the same. He would get home from his work as a mechanic around 6 p.m., take a short nap, then leave for his job as a security guard at 8 p.m. He would return home for Akop Aduryan in a family photo. He was shot and killed July 23 in Sun Valley roughly half an hour between 9 and 9:45 p.m., then leave again for work and come home at midnight, said his older son Chris, 18.

On July 23, Aduryan followed his usual pattern. He arrived home about 9 p.m. on his break from guarding outside an insurance company building at Victory Boulevard and Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood. Forty-five minutes later he went back to work.

What happened next makes no sense to his wife and sons.

About 11 p.m., Aduryan got into a heated argument with a group of Armenian men in a somewhat secluded area in the 7500 block of Goodland Avenue in Sun Valley – along the back fence of the Charles Leroy Lowman Special Education Center, a school for special needs children.

He was more than two miles from his security guard post.

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Dispatch: "I thought to myself: 'I can't let these dudes take me out'"

August 5, 2009 |  3:32 pm

Phase 1 Barber Studio in Compton, where Jamal Kelly, 25, was shot to death while robbing the shop.

Early on the afternoon of July 3, Phase 1 Barber Studio in Compton was crowded with men, women and children waiting to get their hair cut before the Fourth of July.

About 1 p.m., three young black men entered the barbershop, a long white, black and gray room with five salon chairs in the 2700 block of Wilmington Ave. One of the men asked a barber how long the wait would be to get his hair cut.

“I told him there were at least two to three people ahead. I had never seen these guys before in my life,” said the barber, Levert, who asked to be identified only by his first name because he feared he could be targeted for retribution.

The three young men exited the shop, only to return five minutes later. This time, Levert said one of them brandished a knife at him while another stood behind him.

Seeing the commotion, barbershop customers ran out of the building.

Levert, who was wearing two gold chains around his neck, said the man holding the knife “said some gang [talk] and yelled at me to give him my chains.”

Levert said the man then swiped the knife at him, cutting his forearm and pulling the chains off his neck. Two of the assailants backed him into a corner, he said. One, later identified by authorities as Jamel Kelly, 25, of Compton, took out a gun.

In response, Levert pulled out a Ruger .357 he had concealed in his back pocket and shot Kelly. Kelly stumbled and dropped the gun he was holding, Levert said. The other assailants ran out of the barbershop, as Kelly grabbed for his gun on the floor. Levert shot Kelly again. He said he feared for his life.

“Once I got into that corner, there was nowhere else to go,” Levert said. “I don’t feel good about what I did, but I thought to myself, I can’t let these dudes take me out. I have a lot to live.”

Continue reading »

Dispatch: 'If that can happen to us it can happen to any other person'

July 27, 2009 |  6:40 pm

" href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef01157149fb35970c-pi">Gerson Rodriguez, center, pictured with his mother and sister.

Gerson Rodriguez was shot to death in the parking lot of a Burger King in the 1000 block of North Western Avenue in East Hollywood about 1 a.m. Sunday, July 12. It was his 33rd birthday, and his family had planned a small celebration for him later that day.

Rodriguez, a Latino, was born in Guatemala, and when he was a child he moved to the United States with his brother, sister and mother.

His father had died and his mother — who had previously lived in the U.S. —  hoped to start a new life in California, said Evelyn Medina, 38, Rodriguez’ sister.

Rodriguez was raised by his mother and sister in their home in Sylmar. He attended Kennedy High School but left before graduating. He later earned a GED.

Medina said her brother then did odd jobs and took classes off and on at Mission College until enlisting in the Navy in his late twenties.

“He was having trouble finding himself, so he tried a bunch of things,” Media said. “He didn’t know what to do, so he joined the Navy."

Since his childhood Rodriguez had dreamed of joining the military. In Guatemala, Medina said, it is common for children to dream about becoming U.S. Marines, but she and her mother never imagined he would enlist. In fact, he kept his decision to join the Navy a secret from his family.

“We only found out about it on the day he left,” Medina said. “If [his mother and I] knew we would have protested day and night.… Then I changed my mind. He became more like an adult rather than the child we used to pamper a lot.”

Continue reading »

Dispatch: "RIP Crystal"

July 23, 2009 |  6:29 pm

Crystalzaldivar On June 26, a maintenance man went to an apartment on the 7000 block of Whitsett Ave. in Valley Glen to fix a leak. Inside, he found Crystal Zaldivar, a 17-year-old Latina, stabbed multiple times in the home she shared with an aunt.

Authorities called to the scene pronounced Zaldivar dead, according to Los Angeles Police Det. Rich Wheeler.

Later that day, police said her neighbor, Martin Ordonez, an 18-year-old Latino, told authorities that he had killed her.

Wheeler said that Ordonez told police he got into a heated argument at the apartment building with Zaldivar. Ordonez then allegedly got a kitchen knife and entered Zaldivar's apartment, stabbing her multiple times in the upper torso.

Ordonez pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder at his arraignment on June 30 at the Van Nuys Superior Court. He is represented by public defender Tony Corti. Ordonez will appear in court again on Aug. 20 to schedule a time for his preliminary hearing. He is being held at County Jail in lieu of $1,025,000 bail.

Police said that Ordonez and Zaldivar were not romantically involved. Crystalzaldivar2

After her death, Zaldivar's friends placed candles in front of her apartment door and outside the building gate.  “I love you” and “RIP Crystal” were etched into windowpane dust and spray painted on the sidewalk.

According to Monica Carazo of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Zaldivar attended Ulysses S. Grant Senior High School until March when she transferred to a continuation school.

Neighbors said they have not seen Zaldivar's aunt at the apartment since her niece was stabbed to death. They recalled Zaldivar as a nice girl.


-- Sarah Ardalani in Valley Glen

Top photo: Candles and messages left at the Valley Glen apartment where Crystal Zaldivar, 17, was found stabbed to death June 26. Credit: Sarah Ardalani/Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Image of Crystal Zaldivar taped to wall outside the apartment she shared with an aunt.


Dispatch: "To the date, to the date"

July 11, 2009 | 12:16 am

Dennisrodgers
Dennis Joe Rodgers Jr. never met his dad.

Months before he was born, his father was shot to death outside the Imperial Courts Housing Project in South Los Angeles.

On Wednesday night, Rodgers, a 19-year old black man, was shot and killed in the driveway of his Exposition Park home. It was the 20th anniversary of his father's homicide, his family said.

Police said three Latino men had driven to Rodgers' home near Normandie Avenue and 37th Street, where the killer got out of the car and shot Rodgers once in the chest.

Rodgers staggered to the front porch, where he collapsed, family members said.

They said Rodgers had been leaning against a silver car when he was attacked.

Rodgers was taken to California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

On Thursday night, Rodgers' 25-year-old cousin, Pearl White, sat in the driveway and stared at the items that had been placed nearby in Rodgers' memory -- a navy blue baseball cap, sympathy notes and votive candles. Inches away were the bloodstains from the previous night.

Rodgersroses  "This is unbelievable," White said. "Somebody has to come forward."

Family members said they were devastated by the shooting and shocked that Rodgers' death came on the anniversary of his father's killing.

Standing a few feet away, Rodgers' great-aunt, Marilyn Loftin, 43, shook her head.

"To the date, to the date," Loftin repeated.

White said her cousin was the oldest of four children.

"He had two little sisters and a brother," Rodgers' mother, Sylvia, said before relatives escorted her away after she broke down in tears.

Family members said Rodgers, who had been searching for a job, had been contemplating moving to Las Vegas after an uncle who lived there offered him a job at a Home Depot.

"He was a loving child," Loftin said. "He was a happy child."

Police said the shooting does not appear to be gang-related.

-- Ruben Vives

Top photo: Pearl White sits near a vigil for her cousin, Dennis Joe Rodgers, Jr. who was shot and killed Wednesday night. Bottom photo: Candle and flowers left near the site where Rodger's was shot. Credit: Ruben Vives/Los Angeles Times


Dispatch: Young mother dies after a punch to the face

July 6, 2009 | 10:28 pm

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, Lennox sheriff's deputies received a 911 call that a person had collapsed and was not breathing at a residence in the 1100 block of 91st Street in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

When authorities arrived at the home, they found Ashley Hassan, a 23-year-old black female, on the floor. Her boyfriend, Derrick Hill, a 22-year-old black male, was giving her CPR. Paramedics determined that Hassan was in full cardiac arrest and took her to Centinela Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

Witnesses, including the couple’s 3-year-old-daughter, told deputies that Hill had punched Hassan in the face with a closed fist.

Later that morning, authorities arrested Hill in connection with Hassan’s death. They believe that Hill’s punch triggered her cardiac arrest and untimely death.

Los Angeles County coroner’s officials have not yet determined a cause of death. Hassan’s autopsy is deferred while her medical history is reviewed and further tests are done. Results will not be released for another 6 to 8 weeks, coroner’s officials said.

Hill was initially scheduled to enter his plea on charges of murder at Inglewood Municipal Court on June 24.

Hill listened in court as Commissioner John R. Johnson state the charges against him. He shook his head when bail was set to $1 million. At the appearance, Hill’s arraignment was moved to July 13 to give his defense more time to review the case.

When asked for a statement, his public defender, Michael R. Powell, called Hassan’s death a case with “extraordinary circumstances.” Powell said he was waiting for the coroner to determine her cause of death.

According to court records, Hill was arrested in 2006 on suspicion of domestic violence against Hassan. Charges were filed. However Hassan did not provide testimony and the charges were dismissed, according to Sgt. Barry Hall of the sheriff's Homicide Bureau.

Currently the couple’s daughter is in the care of a close relative of Hassan.

-- Sarah Ardalani 


Dispatch: "If we don't say anything, they're going to keep killing"

May 9, 2009 |  3:32 pm

TacotruckOn a typical day, 38-year-old Jaime Carpio is outside El Comal de Mexico, a taco trailer parked in front of a barbershop in Lennox, flattening dough with a tortilla maker while cooking gorditas and chatting with customers. But on the night of Wednesday, April 29, one of his longer shifts, Carpio was inside the trailer assisting other cooks.

"We had a lot of orders that day," Carpio said.

About 10:40 p.m., authorities said, an unidentified man armed with a semiautomatic rifle stood at the corner of Inglewood and Lennox boulevards and fired at the crowd in front of the trailer, authorities said.

"It sounded like firecrackers,"  Carpio said. "I looked out through the window and saw people throwing themselves on the ground." The gunfire struck and killed Amado Cendejas Sr., a 59-year old Latino, of Los Angeles.Two boys, a woman and two other men were wounded in the shooting and are expected to survive,  Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said.

The gunman then fled in a vehicle.

Placing his right hand over his heart, Carpio said the shooting didn't frighten him. But "I was angry," he said. "I was angry to see people lying on the ground wounded."

Carpio said Cendejas was a mariachi guitar player. Over the last six months, he and his band would play at the local bars, restaurants and taco stands in the area.

"They would come every Tuesday and Wednesday to eat here," Carpio said, smiling. "We would joke with them, we'd tell them 'we'll give you five tacos for five songs.' "

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. Pat Nelson said the gunman had no specific target. Three suspects were taken into custody the next day.

"Deputies were in the area and saw the vehicle speeding away," Nelson said, adding that an abandoned weapon believed to have been used in the shooting was also found in the area.

Authorities did not immediately identify the individuals arrested in connection with the taco truck shooting.

"If we don't say anything, they're going to keep killing," Carpio said. The shooting, he said, was the first major incident at the taco trailer. In the past, he said, people have thrown water balloons, eggs or paintballs at the trailer from passing vehicles.

Despite the killing of Cendejas, customers returned to the small trailer the next day.

Less than 24 hours after the shooting, Carpio was back to his routine, chatting with customers, occasionally trying to speak over the engines from the planes descending into LAX.

-- Ruben Vives

Photo: Curbside memorial to Amado Cendejas Jr. near the site of his shooting in Lennox. Credit: Sarah Ardalani/Los Angeles Times


Dispatch: Son held in stabbing death of Hollywood woman

April 23, 2009 | 10:59 pm

Scarano, Erika HedwigMore than 20 years ago, Erika Scarano went on a crusade to clean up her Hollywood neighborhood of prostitution.

The effort led her to start a community action group, and soon she was spearheading a movement to establish a courthouse in Hollywood. The Hollywood branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court opened in 1986, followed by a drop in prostitution and petty theft.

As for Scarano, she faded into the background as a public figure -- until two weeks ago, when homicide detectives began investigating her death.

Scarano, 69, was stabbed several times March 29 during an argument with her 19-year-old adoptive son, Christopher, said Det. Wendi Berndt of the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood Division.

A week later, investigators found Scarano's son at My Friend's Place, a youth shelter in Hollywood. The teenager, who suffers from mental health problems, was arrested on suspicion of murder, Berndt said.

Chris Shabel, an activist and former member of Scarano's Neighborhood Action Group, was surprised there wasn't more reaction to her friend's death, considering her effect

"She was a very big activist at that time," Shabel said.

Continue reading »

'We need your help'

August 13, 2008 |  3:19 pm

August_conference11Community leaders held a news conference Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Imperial Highway and Western Avenue  in response to a spate of shootings in the Athens-Westmont area.

On Sunday night, Aug. 10, four Latino men were shot at the intersection. One died at the scene, two others a nearby hospital. At least two of the men were brothers.

The next day, 17-year-old Eric Sims, a black youth, was riding his bicycle when he was shot to death in the area. Authorities said the shootings were unrelated.

"We are here because three young men forfeited their lives to this madness Sunday night," said Lita Herron of the Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Cease Fire Committee, an anti-violence support group. "We come to find out this morning that a 17-year-old was killed last night. We've had enough, we've had more than enough."

Herron and civil rights leaders called on elected officials to start speaking out against the shootings and to create more evening youth programs. Herron also called on youths, who often are the perpetrators and victims of homicides, to help end gun violence.

"We need your help," she said. "You know who the shooters are among you. You know this element. It's time to shun it. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your friends. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your family members. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your classmates."

Shortly after the news conference, community leaders gave a final prayer. "Guns down," said Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Assn. "We pray for the guns to be put down."

—Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times


'Why is this happening to us?'

August 2, 2008 |  7:25 pm

JasmineIt was Wednesday evening, July 23. It was getting cold and Shadonna Kinney had the chills.

She told her 8-year-old daughter, Jasmine Sanders, and her 3-year-old son, who were playing outside, to come inside the three bedroom apartment at 76th and San Pedro streets.

Seconds later, a shot rang out. Jasmine collapsed face down on the stairwell. Kinney ran down, pulled her daughter's arm, flipped her over and saw blood.

"Jasmine, fight baby, fight for your life," Kinney told her daughter as she cradled her. Kinney said Jasmine only took a gasp of air. She carried her upstairs, screaming to neighbors to call 911.

Inside Kinney continued to cradle her daughter. A neighbor told her to lay her flat and to apply pressure on the wound. Shortly after, paramedics took Jasmine to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

In Compton, over the phone, Jasmine's father was told of his daughter's death.  "I dropped the phone, walked over to the couch and threw myself on it," said James Sanders, 27. "I screamed."

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »

'My baby'

July 25, 2008 |  3:01 pm

                      Img_0197_2

On Thursday evening, family members, community activists, neighbors and police officials gathered outside the apartment complex where 8-year-old Jasmine Sanders, listed below, had been fatally shot a day before. Candles, flowers, balloons and stuffed animals were placed near the stairwell where Jasmine collapsed after she was shot. Ministers led a prayer, then the crowd raised candles and sang "In my neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine." Seconds into the song, Jasmine's mother, Shadonna Kinney, 28, above in white, broke down. "My baby, my baby," she said before screaming. She was escorted into a building across the apartment. "Give her some air," a bystander said.

Inside, she cried and screamed for about half an hour before going back outside. Police Capt. Gregory Allen of the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street Division, who was recently promoted by Police Chief William Bratton, told family members that the LAPD, the city and the community were going to come together to not only solve the crime but also make the neighborhood much safer.

At about 8 p.m. the crowd marched around the block, chanting "Stop the violence, increase the peace," and "Save our children."   Residents peeked through half-open doors and through black window bars, dogs barked and children playing paused to watch the crowd pass.

ruben vives/LAT 


'He wanted everyone to do well'

July 23, 2008 |  4:55 pm

                 Guevara_conference_2

On Wednesday afternoon, outside a liquor store in El Sereno, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and Los Angeles Police Department officials announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Jesus Guevara's killers.

LAPD Hollenbeck detectives said Guevara, 24, had just cashed his check at the liquor store, at 3327 N. Eastern Ave., and was about to enter his vehicle when he was shot twice in the back. Detectives said someone yelled something out and fired at Guevara.

"Let me remind you that the shooting happened in broad daylight," Huizar said. "Broad daylight and It happened on a busy street."

The liquor store sits between a meat market and a restaurant.  "Please, we ask for your help," said Guevara's aunt, Maria Corona.

Jesus_guevara_24_2At the conference Guevara, left, was described as a promising young man. He served four years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. In 2005 he assisted in the tsunami relief effort in Thailand. After leaving active duty, Guevara remained in the Navy reserves as a petty officer.  Corona said he worked as a hydraulics engineer at Shultz Steel Co. in South Gate. Guevara's co-workers loved him, she said. Guevara was attending East Los Angeles College.

Shortly after the news conference, family members stood outside the store. Guevara's aunt and sister said he was always being encouraging. "He wanted everyone to do well," Corona said.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Hollenbeck Dets. Jake Dugger or Araceli Negrete at (323) 526-3091 or (877) 529-3855.

ruben vives / LAT


'How is it that this happened to my son'

July 9, 2008 |  4:22 pm

                   Diego_cruz_conference_3

On Wednesday morning, outside the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood Division, homicide detectives and City Councilman Eric Garcetti announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of Diego Cruz's killers. Above, Cruz's father, Martimiano Cruz, 38, speaks with reporters about his son.

According to authorities, 14-year-old Diego Cruz was on his way to a Sears store on Santa Monica Boulevard about 8 p.m.  on Christmas Eve when he was shot. Cruz collapsed in front of the store.

"It's been difficult,"  his father said. "Sometimes I don't sleep much because I'm up thinking: How is it that this happened to my son?"

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Hollywood detectives at (213) 972-2968.


'She didn't deserve this'

July 6, 2008 | 12:00 pm

Jasmine_sanders_8Jasmine Sanders, 8, a black child, was fatally shot in the chest at 249 E. 76th St. in South-Central Los Angeles about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 23.

According to witnesses, Jasmine was playing outside with her little brother and other children behind an iron gate.

Witnesses told police that two black youths approached a group of male youths sitting on a porch behind a stairway. One of them, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, fired a round at the group, but missed and struck Jasmine in the chest instead.

Witnesses said the force of the shot pushed Jasmine back against the stairs. Her mother came down and picked her up, then carried her upstairs into their apartment, where she and a neighbor applied pressure  on her chest in an attempt to stop the bleeding, witnesses said.

Jasmine was taken by ambulance to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Residents at the apartment building said the incident marked the fifth shooting in the lSandersbullet_wedgeast week. They pointed out bullets from recent shootings still lodged in the gate.  Around the corner from the apartment is John C. Fremont High School and a block away is the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street Division.

The next morning, Jasmine's mother, Shadonna Kinney, 28, returned to the apartment building to pick up a few belongings. She addressed the shooters through news cameras that were stationed outside of the building.

"You senseless guys," she said.  "Do the right thing; come forward, come forward, come forward."

Residents said the family had been living at the apartment for three weeks and that Jasmine had two brothers. Kinney said her daughter was enrolled at 75th Street Elementary School.

"She didn't deserve this," she said. "Somebody knows something."

Community activists have planned a vigil at the apartment building at 7 p.m. tonight.

ruben vives/ LAT


'Tell him to come here'

July 4, 2008 | 11:00 am

Joshua_ford_25_3 Joshua Ford, 25, a black man, was sitting inside his parked car outside his home in Compton when he was shot multiple times.

Deputy Denise Fuchs of the L.A. County Sheriff's Headquarters said the shooting occurred shortly after 3:30 p.m. in the 1400 block of North Rose Avenue. She said a silver Mercedes-Benz pulled up next to Ford's car. A passenger in the Mercedes-Benz got out, walked over to Ford and shot him several times.

The gunman got back in the Mercedes, which was being driven by a black woman, and they sped off east on Peck Street. Ford was shot at least four times, according to his older brother.

A day after the shooting a long strip of police tape remained tied to a street sign. Yellow circles near shattered glass marked where bullet casings had landed in the street. Dried blood stained the dry grass where a red candle had been placed in memory of FordCompton_shooting_2. At the house, family members and friends stood in the backyard. 

Ford's older brother, who did not give his name, said his brother was a middle child. Ford was a handyman and had no children, the older brother said. He said he did not know whether his younger brother had arrived or was about to leave for work. 

Shortly after, the brother began asking where the mayor was. "Tell him to come here," he said. "Check on these murders, come talk to all the families here." Ford's older brother then wanted to know why so many of Compton's murders have gone unsolved. "You want to do your job," he told this reporter. "Report on that will you."

-ruben vives / LAT


'How much do we have to endure?'

June 30, 2008 |  6:38 pm

                           Bryan_moore_vigil

Family, friends and community activists held a vigil for Bryan Moore at Campanella Park in Compton Sunday evening, June 29. Above, Criminal Investigator Paul Parker III speaks to the media at a news conference. A poster behind him reads "How much of this do we have to endure?"

Moore, listed below, was killed in a deputy-involved shooting Thursday, June 26. Milton Grimes, an attorney for Moore's family, said information from witnesses suggest that the use of force by the deputy was unjustified. Grimes said Moore was shot three or four times in the back.   

Moore's girlfriend, Chanta Deeminter, 27, said she and Moore were returning to her home when she saw a sheriff's patrol car. Deeminter told Moore that she believed the patrol car was following her. Moore panicked. "He was breathing hard," Deeminter said. Moore then jumped out of the car and ran.  A deputy chased him on foot, then shots were fired. Deeminter said she heard three shots.  The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said in a statement that Moore was asked to show his hands. Instead, Moore looked, then turned toward the deputy. Fearing for his life, the deputy shot him, the statement said.

"This is an ongoing thing," said James Connor, a resident of Compton. "There's going to be more shootings like this now that summer is here," he said.

A dispute between family members interrupted the vigil. News cameras recorded the argument, which turned into a fight. "This is not news," a bystander said after he was asked about the fight.

At the end of the vigil everyone gathered in a prayer circle, while a sheriff's helicopter circled around the park.


'I want justice for my brother'

June 28, 2008 |  5:55 pm

                           Usman_vigil_3

It has been almost three months since Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, 21, was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Hollywood. 

On Saturday, June 21, family, friends and community activists gathered at 1435 N. Curson Ave. to remember Chaudhry and others shot by police, as well as to empower local communities. Above, Chaudhry's family speaks out. "I am Usman's sister and I want justice for my brother," Chaudhry's sister wrote on a poster.

Chaudhry was fatally shot by a Hollywood Police officer early Tuesday, March 25.


'He could have made a difference'

June 24, 2008 |  3:12 pm

                           Img_2379_2

A funeral service for Christopher Taylor, listed below, was held at Angelus Funeral Home in Jefferson Park Saturday afternoon, June 21. Taylor, 19, was fatally shot outside his home almost a week ago.  After the service family and friends gathered at Taylor's home. His closest friends stood in his bedroom recalling their memories of Taylor. "He looked like a good kid and was a good kid," said Raven Holmes, 26. In honor of Taylor, twenty-year-old Tyrone Miller, above, had a barber shave the words "RIP Chris" on the back of his head. "He wanted you to live your life like it was your last  [day] and do right," Miller told everyone in the room.

Christopher Taylor was raised in Lorain, Ohio. He attended Elyria High School, where he ran cross country and won several awards. "He could run, we seen him," said Jonathan Brown, 18. "We had water balloon fights and he could run. You couldn't catch him," Brown said. Friends described Taylor as a caring, honest and responsible young man.  "He could have made a difference," Holmes said. "He was the type of guy that could."

 


'Mama esta aqui'

June 7, 2008 |  5:51 pm

Luis_alberto_leon_and_daughter_3Alma Velasquez was at work when her son, Luis Albert Leon, 19, was fatally shot.

According to family, Leon was sitting on the curb outside a friend's house about 11 a.m. Friday, May 9. Authorities said a vehicle pulled up next to him. A Latino man got out of the vehicle and shot him.

Velasquez said a neighbor went to her work to tell her about the shooting. She said she went to the site, but police told her that her son had been taken by ambulance to California Hospital. Leonsister_3

At the hospital, doctors told Velasquez her son was in surgery. They explained to her that one of the bullets had penetrated his chest, his liver and left kidney.

By 5 p.m. Leon was out of surgery. Velasquez said she walked over to her son's bed and told him, "Mama esta aqui." (Mama is here.)

Leon was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m. that Friday.  He had a 2-year-old daughter.

Leonsister2_2PHOTOS: Above, Leon and his daugther. To the right, Leon's sister, Natalie Ake, 16, who said her brother was taking her a stuffed teddy bear when he was shot. Left, Leon's blood stains on the teddy bear.

..

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'He wanted to be independent'

June 2, 2008 |  6:09 pm

Img_2327

Twenty-five year old Emitt Love Jr. knew struggle.

At the age of 8, Love's mother left. His father was in prison. Love's grandmother took him in.

A year later, his mother took him back, but it only lasted a few months. She left again, and Love was placed in a foster home. Then his father was released from prison and Love moved in with him at age 10.

Six years later, his father lost his job and house. Love moved in with his aunt in Bellflower. He attended Bellflower High School and ran track, said the father, Emitt Love Sr., interviewed by phone.

After high school, Love moved in with his older brother. A roomate skipped out on rent, and the brothers were evicted.

From then on, Love roamed from house to house. He wanted to be independent, the father said. Love worked for a year at CVS, the drug store chain. He was trying to make it as a hip-hop/rap artist, the father said. He had a rap group called Street Roamers with his two cousins and friend. His music moniker was "E-Nuff."

Love was at the bus stop on Century Boulevard near Vermont Avenue waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up late on June 1, according to Love's friend. Authorities said a black man approached and shot Love at about 10:45 p.m., then fled in a dark-colored vehicle south on Vermont Avenue.

Photo: On Monday afternoon Love's cousin and a friend, kneeling, made a short stop at the bus bench in Athens where Love had been sitting before he was shot to death.



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About the Reporters
The Homicide Report is compiled using information from the Los Angeles County coroner's office, local law enforcement agencies and the Los Angeles Times. It is written by Times staff writers.


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