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Search expanded for gunman who killed 2 in Inglewood

October 20, 2012 |  3:27 pm

Search for Inglewood gunman expands
Police were preparing Saturday afternoon to expand their search for a gunman who shot five members of an Inglewood family, killing two, to the surrounding neighborhood, authorities said.

Residents of about a dozen homes were expected to be moved by a fleet of buses to a Red Cross shelter set up nearby so police can search their properties in the working-class neighborhood in the 4900 block of West 99th Street, authorities said. Red Cross officials said counselors would be available at the shelter at Crozier Middle School.

“At this time, we are pretty confident that he’s in the local area,” Lt. James Madia said of the suspect.

Madia said displaced residents could “expect to spend the better part of the day or…several days” at the Red Cross shelter if the search expands.

“Evacuations are not mandatory,” Madia said. “However, everyone on the block understands the risk.”

The masked gunman shot five people during the 4 a.m. attack on the West 99th Street property, where a 400-square-foot bungalow was also torched, police said.

The owner of the property, who declined to give his name, said the gunman lived on the property and had not paid rent for years. He said the suspect went to court to fight an eviction notice and lost his case  Oct. 16.

On Saturday, firefighters continued to haul out piles of debris and remnants of the collapsed roof from the charred house, searching for any sign of the suspect’s body.  L.A. County Fire Capt. Tom Richards said the suspect was a “packrat” and that fire officials called in a ladder truck to help move and lift out the debris.

“They’re a long ways away” in terms of cleaning out the debris, Richards said. “That house was filled to the brim with stuff.”

Inglewood police Chief Mark Fronterotta described the suspect as a 55-year-old black male, 5 feet 6, 160 pounds, wearing a black baseball cap with possibly a white painter’s mask over his face. 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 a hospital after surgery.

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

The children's mother, 28, was shot in both legs but managed to jump over 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 boy, who suffered a gunshot wound to the pelvis, 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,” she said.


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-- Louis Sahagun in Inglewood and Teresa Watanabe

Photo: Officers are at the ready Saturday behind an Inglewood home, where a man wearing a mask set a duplex aflame and then shot five members of a family, killing two. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times