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LAPD investigating third shooting at a medical marijuana dispensary

June 30, 2010 | 11:36 am

Los Angeles police detectives are investigating a robbery at a Northridge marijuana dispensary over the weekend that left an employee in critical condition after he was shot in the face.

The shooting took place shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday at the dispensary in the 8900 block of Reseda Boulevard, police said. The victim was taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center and was listed in critical condition.

The suspects, who were not immediately identified, made off with approximately $11,000 in cash, police said.

The shooting was the third at a medical marijuana dispensaries over a three-day period last week. Two people were fatally shot Thursday and a third man was wounded in pot shop robberies in Echo Park and Hollywood.

It was at least the second time this year that the Northridge dispensary was targeted. Two suspects are awaiting trial in connection with a shooting that left a 33-year-old clinic employee wounded during an attempt to rob the man of his wallet.

Officials did not release the name of the man who was wounded Saturday.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they did not believe there was any connection between the San Fernando Valley case and the two attempted robberies in Los Angeles, which occurred hours apart.

"We have no evidence to believe that the three [robberies] are connected," said Kevin McClure, the captain in charge of the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division. "But do I think it's a disturbing pattern based on what it is, absolultely."

The robbery at the medical marijuana clinic on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park left one worker wounded and another dead. The dead man was identified as Matthew Benjamin Butcher, 27, of Los Angeles, the son of labor leader Julie Butcher. Officials said the store was ransacked. 

The second incident occurred at 9:15 p.m. a few miles away on El Centro Avenue in Hollywood when an unknown number of suspects stormed into the shop. The dead man was later identified as Ila Ali Packman, 39, of Hollywood.

The killings coincided with a city crackdown on pot businesses that has resulted in the closure of dozens of the outlets.

The City Attorney's office recently notified about 400 marijuana dispensaries that they must shut down if they do not meet location restrictions outlined in a new ordinance that took effect this month. The dispensaries were given six months to comply with the law, but many have already closed.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said last week that authorities shouldn't rule out a link between the robberies and slayings at the pot clinics and drug cartels.

"There's a matter for us having to be on full alert as to what the reasons were for such brutal murders," he said. "It's one thing to go in and put a gun in the face of a person who is running a commercial establishment and ask him for the money. It's a totally different thing by assassinating the person that you're robbing. That, to me, is very cartel-ish in its style."

-- Andrew Blankstein