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New Year's Eve Fusillade Claims at Least 2 Victims

January 02, 1988|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

But it was a close call for Ruby Lenore, he said. She in the bathroom, and "the shots went by her head," McKay said.

Suspect Chased

After the burst of gunfire, neighbors called police, who chased DeJohn Thomas through backyards and caught him as he crossed a street. Witnesses told police that he had been carrying an Uzi submachine gun, and police found one stashed under some debris near the rear of 343 East 53rd St., along with a Smith & Wesson revolver. Thomas was booked on suspicion of possessing a weapon with an altered serial number.

"He was celebrating his birthday," McKay said. Thomas was born Jan. 1, 1958.

No estimates were available for property damage, but the inconvenience caused by the barrage was considerable.

In Los Angeles, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported seven instances, ranging from Canoga Park to South-Central Los Angeles, where bullets had either punctured transformers or cut power lines.

A Southern California Edison Co. spokesman said about 18,000 customers suffered outages caused by gunfire and, in addition, metallic balloons released by New Year's revelers shorted out power for another 5,150. Locations hit hardest were in Southgate, Bellflower, Dominguez Hills, Carson and Compton.

Authorities are investigating to see if any of the ruptured transformers spilled oil containing PCBs, a suspected cancer-causing agent.

In Compton, Sgt. Ron Malachi said officials discovered Friday that a number of windows at the post office had been shot out.

"It is a damn shame," he said.

In Torrance, a bullet fell through the roof of a home in the southern part of town.

Few Arrests

Despite the widespread nature of complaints, few arrests were made.

Police put the shooting calls on a low priority because they were swamped by the sheer number of shooting complaints and other unrelated calls. It is frequently difficult to identify suspects, according to McLin. Los Angeles police investigated 60 gunfire reports.

One such investigation, by Los Angeles police from the Wilshire Division, led to the arrest of seven people.

Shortly before midnight, neighbors of a house in the 4600 block of West 17th Street reported gunfire from a group of men in the backyard, according to Sgt. Howard Tanner.

Police "looked over the fence and saw the group shooting," Tanner said.

Booked on suspicion of a misdemeanor violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code banning gunfire in the city limit were Antonio, Martin, Daniel, Angel and Flavio Castaneda; Van Mitchell and a juvenile.

Police confiscated two rifles, a shotgun, three pistols and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Assorted shell casings littered the yard, police said.

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