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Suspect in Inglewood shooting was recently evicted, woman says

October 20, 2012 | 11:53 am


The suspect in the shooting of an Inglewood family that killed a father and his 4-year-old son Saturday was recently evicted from the property where the crime occurred, according to a woman whose daughter is related to one of the victims.

Judy Castellanos, who was at the scene with her daughter and husband, said that the suspect lived in one of three units on the property and described him as “really weird” and “dangerous.” She said he had not paid his rent for years and that a new property owner wanted him out.

“He had been asked to leave by the end of this month,” she said of the suspect, noting that he was reclusive and would not let anyone look inside his home. Castellanos, who said her daughter is related to the man who was killed, did not give the suspect's name.

The masked gunman shot five people during the early morning attack at the property in the 4900 block of 99th Street, where a duplex was also torched, police 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. 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.

Castellanos expressed frustration that the police had not moved in on the potential holdout. “There has to be justice served here,” she said. “I do not see why the police waited for the house to burn down.”

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.

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 children's 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.

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.”

Michael Howard, public information officer for the Red Cross, said “the police department is asking people to shelter in place, or if they must leave, we will provide a place for them to go.”

Most residents remained in their homes, while others milled around their frontyards, trying to get a glimpse of what was unfolding down the street.

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


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-- Louis Sahagun in Inglewood and Teresa Watanabe

Photo: Police officers talk on 98th Street, behind the home on 99th Street where a man wearing a mask set a duplex aflame and then shot five members of an Inglewood family, killing two. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times