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Rodeo Drive Suspect's Past: Sought in Vegas Jewel Heist : Police Bullet Apparently Killed 1 of 3

June 24, 1986|ROXANE ARNOLD and BOB BAKER | Times Staff Writers

A 22-year-old Las Vegas man arrested in the bloody 13 1/2-hour siege of a Beverly Hills jewelry store in which three hostages died is a convicted burglar who was also being sought by the FBI for allegedly robbing a Las Vegas jewelry store at gunpoint in February, authorities said today.

Steven Livaditis, who police said killed at least two hostages during Monday's standoff, was in custody at the Los Angeles County--USC Medical Center jail ward, where he was booked on investigation of multiple murder and robbery. Formal charges were expected to be filed against him Wednesday.

The Las Vegas jewelry store robbery that police believe Livaditis carried out occurred Feb. 2 at a Zales jewelers in a large shopping center two miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

The suspect entered the store shortly after it opened and tied up the two employees on duty. Armed with a large-caliber revolver, he took about $100,000 in jewelry after telling one employee he would "blow his head off" if he did not cooperate, according to statements made by the victim. While that employee said he was "roughed up," there were no serious injuries.

Identified in Photo

Police said the victims identified Livaditis as the robber after being shown a photograph of him. The FBI later obtained a federal warrant for his arrest as a fugitive.

Livaditis' older brother, George Livaditis, 28, also of Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview today that he had been troubled by his brother's inability to hold a steady job and his willingness to turn to crime.

However, the brother said, he was shocked by reports that Livaditis had executed two hostages inside the Beverly Hills store.

"I never thought he had something like this in him," he said. "Never. He had me fooled completely. . . . I never even knew he knew how to use" a gun, Livaditis said.

The elder Livaditis, an importer, said he, Steven and two other children were raised in Brooklyn by their mother. He said he had not seen his brother for the past year and had not been close to him since Steven was 11 or 12 years old and their mother sent Steven to a Greek-American church school in Upstate New York.

The siege at the exclusive Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry store ended tragically late Monday night when the gunman tried to slip out a south entrance of the store, using three hostages as a shield. Store manager Hugh Skinner, 64, was shot to death as the four, apparently tied together and covered by a drape, tried to make their way to a parking lot where some of the employees kept their cars.

Apparently Shot by Police

Sheriff Sherman Block told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today that the fatal shot was apparently fired by a police officer. The officer fired, Block said, because the gunman allegedly had pointed his weapon at one of the hostages. Block said the suspect's gun was fully loaded when it was recovered outside the store. A knife was also recovered.

Authorities found the bodies of two other hostages inside the store. The two, lying face down with their hands bound, had been killed execution-style, police said.

As Levaditis and his captives left the store shortly after 11:30 p.m., members of the sheriff's special-weapons team lobbed "flash-bang" grenades in their direction in an attempt to stop them.

"During this time," said Deputy Dave Tellez, "one hostage fell to the ground and a special weapons team member in the long-rifle position fired one round from his rifle. At the time, we do not know if that round struck a hostage."

Authorities said ballistics tests may be required to determine who fired the fatal shot. Beverly Hills police were on the scene as well as sheriff's deputies.

A source in the district attorney's office said early reports indicated that the store manager "apparently may have been hit by a sheriff's sniper, but it's unclear."

Saleswoman Suffered Burns

The two other hostages who were with Livaditis when the siege ended were taken to local hospitals with moderate injuries.

Saleswoman Carol Lambert, 42, of Culver City, who was burned on her face and chest by the "flash-bang" grenades, was in stable condition Tuesday in the burn unit at Brotman Memorial Hospital. After complaining of chest pains, Robert Taylor, 60, the store's shipping clerk, was being treated in the coronary observation unit of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Taylor's son on Monday said his father was a diabetic.

Livaditis, burned on his hands and face by the flash grenades, was being treated at the jail ward.

Throughout the long siege, Livaditis claimed that he had killed at least one hostage inside the store and possibly a second.

Television station KTLA reported that it had received a phone call at mid-afternoon from a man identifying himself as the gunman. Giving his name as "John," the caller claimed that he had killed a man named Smith, the store's security guard, for talking back to him.

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