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Two killed as masked gunman attacks Inglewood family, police say

October 20, 2012 | 10:38 am

A masked gunman shot five people, killing a father and his 4-year-old son, in an early morning attack Saturday at an Inglewood property where a duplex was also torched, authorities said.

As dark smoke rose from the smoldering home in the quiet neighborhood, an Inglewood police SWAT team cleared the surrounding structures and searched for the suspect on the property in the 4900 block of 99th Street. Police warned residents to stay inside their homes as they combed the area north of Century Boulevard about a mile west of the Hollywood Park racetrack.

Authorities received the first report about 4 a.m. and at late morning were still investigating what triggered the attack. Inglewood police Chief Mark Fronterotta said officials were trying to confirm reports that the gunman was recently evicted from the rear home that he was believed to have been renting.

Fronterotta described the suspect as a 55-year-old black male, 5 feet 6, 160 pounds, wearing a black cap or beanie with a white painter’s hat over it. The gunman had known the family for at least eight years, according to Capt. Tom Richards of the Los Angeles County  Fire Department.

The father, 30, was shot multiple times while protecting his children, police said. He and his 4-year-old son died at the hospital after surgery.

“The father was found draped over two of the children, shielding them,” Fronterotta said.

The mother, 28, was shot in the knee and pelvis and jumped the property’s back fence with her 4-year-old son, Fronterotta said. Paramedics found her collapsed on the street.

Her 7-year-old daughter was shot in the chest. Both mother and daughter were in critical condition at a local hospital. Another 6-year-old child was in stable condition. An 8-year-old boy escaped injury, Richards said.

Aileen Ramirez, 11, who lives just behind what is believed to be the suspect’s former home, said she was awakened before dawn by “really, really loud gunshots and screaming. Somebody was yelling: 'Help me!' I ran outside with my mother and saw the house burning down,” Ramirez said.

Karla Carmona, 11, who lives with the Ramirez family, said she saw the roof melting down and the fire “getting bigger and bigger.”

Aileen’s brother, Yesualdo Ramirez, 20, described the children targeted in the attack as “happy kids.” “We’d always see them kicking around soccer balls,” he said.

The fire downed power lines, hampering firefighting efforts, but utility officials cut power to the area, Richards said. He said arson investigators were on the scene to determine the cause of the blaze but were waiting for clearance to proceed from Inglewood police.

“The search is going slow because we may have to use [tear] gas in the structure before we enter it,” Fronterotta said. "Once that’s cleared, it will enable firefighters to clear the rubble.”

Police were searching vehicles, including their trunks, as people left the neighborhood.

Richards described the area as a quiet, family neighborhood. “You don’t see shootings like this here,” he said.


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-- Louis Sahagun in Inglewood and Teresa Watanabe