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5 Teen-Agers Linked to 100 Thefts, Death


Five alleged gang members arrested after a robbery in Hollywood last week may be linked to the killing of a Silver Lake man and as many as 100 armed robberies in the Northeast, Hollywood and Rampart areas of Los Angeles this summer, Los Angeles police said.

Several of the teen-agers told police that they were involved in the Aug. 7 attempted robbery and shooting of dancer-teacher Robert Alex Gonzalez, 30, Police Detective Loren Zimmerman said.

That incident, in which three assailants robbed Gonzalez's two friends before shooting Gonzalez in front of his residence, is one of about 100 armed robberies police hope to link to the same five teen-agers, Zimmerman said. About 55 of them were in the northeast area, he said.

Charges have been filed against Juan Carlos Romero, 19, who police said told them that he drove Gonzalez's assailants from the shooting in a stolen white Toyota minivan.

Romero has been charged with

murder, attempted robbery and robbery, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ralph Shapiro said. He is being held in County Jail without bail.

Four juveniles arrested with Romero, two 16 and two 17, are being held at Eastlake Juvenile Hall while police continue their investigation, Shapiro said. Police are trying to determine which were involved in the Gonzalez robbery and who shot him, Zimmerman said.

Police this week also are showing photographs of the teen-agers to victims to determine how many robberies can be linked to them, he said.

"Although we think we may be dealing with a huge number of robberies, we could be dealing with far fewer," Shapiro said. So far, the only evidence linking the five to the string of about 100 robberies are their statements to police, Zimmerman said.

Romero told police that he has stolen a light-colored Toyota four-door or minivan every day since June 1, Zimmerman said. The youths told police that they used the stolen vehicles in their robberies, then ditched them immediately, he said.

"We have known for a long time there were young Hispanics using white minivans to perform robberies," Zimmerman said. He estimated that about 90 vehicles matching that description have been stolen in the Northeast, Hollywood and Rampart police divisions this summer.

Romero told police that when he could not find a white minivan, he would take a silver or gray one, Zimmerman said.

The five were arrested Aug. 29. They had allegedly robbed a 30-year-old man on the street just after midnight and police broadcast a description to patrol officers, Detective Mike Depasquale said.

Moments later, officers spotted and chased a white Toyota minivan. After a short foot pursuit by officers and a K-9 unit, the five were arrested, Depasquale said.

A gang detective realized that the teen-agers matched the description of suspects in a string of robberies. In interviews, they confessed to committing the robberies, Depasquale said.

The teen-agers, one of them a young woman, belong to a small, Rampart-area gang with 20 to 25 members, Zimmerman said.

Linking the teen-agers to the specific crimes will be time-consuming and difficult, Shapiro said. Authorities "do have the luxury of knowing these guys are in custody," he said.

The district attorney's office has filed a request to have the juveniles tried as adults, Shapiro said.

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