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2 More Bystanders Killed in South L.A. Shooting Incidents

February 14, 1988|JILL STEWART | Times Staff Writer

Probable gang-related violence took the lives of two innocent bystanders late Friday when a teen-age girl and young man were shot in separate incidents as they enjoyed the warm night air in South-Central Los Angeles, police said Saturday.

In a spate of bloody weekend gang shootings that left at least seven people injured, a man and woman were also shot Saturday morning when a gunman fired a shotgun at a group of people on West 104th Place in the South-Central area. Their identities were not immediately known.

Meanwhile, Compton police said two young men who were not gang members were in critical condition at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center after the occupants of a 1973 lime green Volkswagen opened fire on them with a shotgun about noon Friday.

Gang Links Sought

Police said they were investigating whether the two men were innocent victims of gang activity or were involved in drug dealing.

Also injured Friday in another incident was Clarence Wallace, 25, of Inglewood, described by police as a known gang member. He suffered a leg wound when he and his two teen-age friends were fired upon by a rival gang on West 102nd Street.

In the first killing, police said Melinda Renee Johnson, 15, died instantly when occupants of a car opened fire about 9:40 p.m. as she sat visiting with a friend on her back porch at 8464 S. Avalon Blvd. Johnson's friend, Latricia Moore, 19, was treated for a thigh wound at a hospital and released.

About two hours later, Maynor Contreras, 22, was fatally wounded by occupants of a passing car as he and three friends stood near the corner of 23rd Street and Vermont Avenue, a few blocks north of USC.

He died several hours later at County-USC Medical Center, where two of his friends, Fernando Alvarez, 23, and Mario Garcia, 27, were in stable condition, police said. The fourth victim, Marco Martinez, 22, was treated for minor wounds and released.

Series of Shootings

Homicide detectives and gang units scoured the neighborhoods where the deaths occurred, seeking clues to the shootings. The attacks came in the wake of a widely publicized Westwood gang shooting last month that took the life of a Long Beach woman, and another gang shooting Tuesday that killed a wheelchair-bound elderly woman.

Like those earlier victims, police said Friday's victims were not affiliated with gangs and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sgt. Ted Amstone described the death of Melinda Johnson as "just another useless killing in South-Central Los Angeles. They were just sitting there minding their own business."

He said a car crept down the alley behind Johnson's building and its occupants fired upon the two without warning before speeding away. There was no description of the car.

Lt. Fred Nixon said the gunfire was probably intended for rival gang members believed to reside in Johnson's building. He said a man with a gun was arrested nearby shortly after the shooting, but he had not been charged in the killing.

'Never Caused Trouble'

A grocery store manager who works a few doors away from Johnson's apartment building said the 15-year-old was "a cool girl in my book, who never caused trouble in the store--an OK girl."

He said the neighborhood where she died, about a half-mile east of the Harbor Freeway near Imperial Highway, "is almost indescribable. It's an area that's had many things go down, quite a lot of shooting. It quiets down, then it starts up again. Most people here don't make a habit of sitting out on their porches."

In the Contreras killing, Southwest homicide Detective Richard Hoffman said the victims were "four friends, who met near the corner on a Friday evening near a restaurant that does a lot of business that time of night."

"They were standing around enjoying themselves talking," Hoffman said. "It was an instant thing, and they had no time to run. All of a sudden, bang, bang, bang."

Witnesses described the suspects' car as a dark blue compact, Hoffman said.

Several Shots Fired

He said seven to 10 shots were fired from the car, which contained two to four people. The vehicle sped away and was believed to have headed east on the nearby Santa Monica Freeway.

In the Saturday morning shooting, police said a man and woman hit by shotgun blasts had been approached by a gang member who argued with them, then opened fire. The victims were in stable condition at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, officials said.

In the Compton shooting, which may have been drug-related, police said Michael Bellows, 26, and Gary Clark, 22, were shot in the head and torso with a shotgun in front of a vacant house at 418 Peach St. before noon Friday.

Police said the men were found slumped in a pool of blood by paramedics called to the scene by witnesses.

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