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Suspect identified in killing of four at Valley Village restaurant

April 9, 2010 |  3:44 pm

A suspect has been identified in the killing of four people last weekend at a Valley Village restaurant, Los Angeles police said.

Nerses Galstyan, 28, is suspected in the shooting April 3 at the Hot Spot Cafe, police said. The victims were Hayk Yegnanyan, 25; Sarkis Karadjian, 26; Harut Baburyan, 28; and Vardan Tofalyan, 31.

Galstyan is believed to be the sole shooter in the attack, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Police have scheduled a news conference this afternoon.

Sources, who spoke to The Times on the condition that they not be named because of the ongoing investigation, have said they believe the shooting was tied to Armenian or Eurasian organized crime but are unsure of the motive.

The gunman entered the Middle Eastern restaurant about 4 p.m., approached a table where at least six men were dining and opened fire, police said. Three of the diners were killed almost instantly, and another died at a hospital.

Galstyan is not in custody but has been indicted in federal court on suspicion of dealing firearms without a license, according to the source.

Of the four killed, Baburyan, of Glendale, had a criminal record, according to court records and interviews.

He was convicted in 2000 of receiving stolen property and sentenced to 18 days in jail and five years' probation, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Six years later, he pleaded no contest to illegal possession of a semiautomatic weapon and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said Baburyan was one of eight people charged in an auto fraud case in 2007. He was charged with five counts of auto fraud and convicted in May 2007 of attempted auto fraud and sentenced to six months in prison, prosecutors said.

Two of the other victims had been investigated by the police, one for petty theft and one for stolen goods. But prosecutors declined to charge them, Robison said.

The restaurant owner told The Times that the victims were part of a group of about 30 to 40 people who reserved the cafe starting at 1 p.m. Artour Balian said the victims were sitting quietly, talking among themselves, and didn't appear disturbed in any way.

-- Richard Winton