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South L.A. auto shop owner surprises alleged burglars, kills one

February 6, 2011 |  6:10 pm

An owner of a South L.A. auto shop on Sunday interrupted a pair of alleged burglars, fatally shooting one of the men as he was fleeing, police said.

Shortly after midnight, a witness called the owners of a wholesale auto-sales shop on the 5800 block of South Hoover Street to alert them that a pair of men had hopped over the business’s fence, according to Det. Chris Barling, who oversees the homicide unit in LAPD’s South Bureau.

The men had removed the batteries from several vehicles by the time one of the owners arrived armed with a registered handgun, Barling said.  One of the alleged burglars  bolted and was attempting to climb over a fence when the owner fired a single shot that struck him in the buttocks area, according to Barling.

Immediately after the shooting, the owner called 911 to request paramedics, who took the suspect to a local hospital, Barling said.  He was pronounced dead a short time later. 

Detectives did not release the name of the business owner and are withholding the identity of the shooting victim until next of kin can be notified.

The circumstances of the shooting are still under investigation as detectives try to determine whether the owner was justified in using lethal force, Barling said.  They are looking, for example, into whether the owner intended to fire a warning shot that inadvertently struck the man or was aiming intentionally at him.  Another question to be answered is whether the owner reasonably feared for his safety at the time of the shooting. 

Detectives are expected to present the findings of their investigation on Tuesday to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file criminal  charges against the owner.

The second alleged burglar, 19-year-old Charles Netherly, was detained at the scene and arrested.  He is expected to face burglary charges, Barling said.  Police found another alleged accomplice, Christina Sharp, 19, in a nearby alley and suspect her of being the erstwhile get-away driver. Both Netherly and Sharp were being held at the 77th Street jail on $20,000 bail.

Some or all of the three are suspected of being involved in a previous burglary of the same shop, Barling said. 

The shop owner was interviewed and released.

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-- Joel Rubin (@joelrubin)

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