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Gangs Greet Yule With Tidings of Good Will : Murphy Film Resumes After Theater Melee

December 24, 1987|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

A Monrovia theater has cautiously resumed showing Eddie Murphy's latest movie, "Raw," after a melee between rival gang members last week that sent hundreds of patrons running for cover and left one man injured.

The Mann Huntington Oaks 6 Plex stopped screening Murphy's film Friday night to avoid attracting more gang violence.

But after suspending the movie through the weekend, the theater began showing it again Monday--this time with the addition of two uniformed security guards, said Mann spokesman William Hertz.

"We think it was an isolated incident," Hertz said. "We don't think there is any further need to keep the movie off the screen."

Nonstop Hostility

The melee initially involved members of local offshoots of the Crips and the Bloods, two Los Angeles-based black gangs attending the opening night of "Raw," said Monrovia Police Detective Roger Johnson.

The Altadena Block Crips apparently joined with the Monrovia and Duarte-based DuRock Crips to attack the Pasadena Devil's Lane Bloods, an official said.

"The Crips and the Bloods are continually at odds with each other. There are problems whenever they come in contact with each other," Johnson said. "This is just one evening in a history of evenings."

Johnson said he does not think that the movie--which features Murphy in an obscenity-laced comedy routine lampooning Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, women and homosexuals, among others--had anything to do with the fight except that it attracted a large number of gang members.

Ed Turley, special projects director for the county Community Youth Gang Services program, said that as many as six counselors spent the weekend talking to gang members in Pasadena and Altadena in an attempt to defuse the situation.

Predictions Dangerous

Turley said there is no way to tell if there will be retaliation for the Friday fight.

"In a rival situation, things never cool down," he said. "It's a stalemate, with everyone wondering whose next move it is."

Other theaters in the San Gabriel Valley--including the Edwards Foothill Center Cinema in Azusa, the Westcove in West Covina and the Vineland Drive-In in Industry--reported no problems and continued to show the film, police said.

The fight in Monrovia erupted shortly after 9 p.m. in the theater's lobby and later spilled over into a crowd waiting outside, Johnson said.

The manager called the Monrovia Police Department, and several officers arrived just as a fight broke out in a hallway in the theater.

When they saw the officers, the participants scattered, some going into a restroom and others back into the theater.

Johnson said officers arrested two youths in the restroom on weapons-possession charges. The two, whose identities were withheld because they are juveniles, are believed to be members of the DuRock Crips.

While they were being taken away, another fight broke out in the lobby and quickly moved outside, causing panic among a crowd of patrons waiting to enter the theater, Johnson said.

"There were people running all over the place," he said. "It was panic."

At the height of the melee, a man apparently pointed a handgun into the crowd, the detective said. He was spotted by an officer and ordered to halt. Johnson said the man bolted from the theater, threw the weapon into the parking lot and ran into a nearby store.

Denied Gang Affiliation

Timothy Norwood, 20, of Altadena was later arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen handgun. Norwood told officers that he did not belong to a gang, Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Mallet, 27, was stabbed in the back outside the theater, Johnson reported.

Mallet, who also said he was not a member of any gang, was treated at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and released. His assailant escaped in the confusion, Johnson said.

Another member of the DuRock Crips, a 16-year-old juvenile, was arrested during the melee for fighting in public, Johnson said, adding, "It was one massive, continuous fight."

A total of 25 officers from the Sheriff's Department and the Monrovia, Sierra Madre and Arcadia police departments were called in to help quell the disturbance, Johnson said.

He estimated that about 50 gang members were involved in the fight and that about 350 theater patrons witnessed the melee.

The incident in Monrovia was one of several in Southern California that marked the opening of the film.

Fatality During Fight

A 21-year-old Compton man identified as Raymond Espinoza died late Friday after being shot during a fight at the snack bar of the Rosecrans Drive-In Theater in Paramount, where "Raw" was showing. The suspect in that incident disappeared into the crowd and is being sought.

In Westwood, police said 1,500 people became involved in a fight at the Mann Village Theater after a screening of the movie was halted because of the unruliness of the audience.

Two dozen Los Angeles and UCLA police officers were called in, but more scuffles erupted after ticket holders waiting in line were told that the late show had been canceled.

One USC football player, Eugene Arrington, 22, was arrested in connection with battery on a police officer. Three other USC players--Randy Tanner, 21; Tracy Butts, 21, and Carl Smith, 19--were seized on charges of unlawful assembly. A UCLA student, Ronald Medina, 19, was also arrested.

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