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Cross-Fire of Shooters and Shoppers : Violence: Even at a trendy Westside mall, customers and merchants take an incident of gang gunfire in stride.

November 25, 1992|JESSE KATZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There might have been a time when a gang shooting at the Westside Pavilion could have shocked merchants and customers of the shopping center's trendy boutiques.

But after a decade of mounting warfare on the streets of Los Angeles and a riot that crossed imaginary boundaries all over the city, even the folks west of La Cienega Boulevard have come to accept that no mall is an island, immune from the urban woes found in every corner of town.

So it was with weary resignation Tuesday that shopkeepers such as Beverley Marmor recalled the previous day's shootout, a gang confrontation that left two young men with minor wounds and a third locked behind bars on charges of attempted murder.

"It's an illusion if you think something like this can't happen here," said Marmor, who works the counter at her cousin's clothing store, Mr. Mike. "As long as we're alive, no one is immune."

According to police, the incident began Monday shortly before 4 p.m., when two groups of young men--apparently at the mall just to shop--bumped into each other on the east end of the second floor, near the May Co.

Words were exchanged. The words turned to threats, and then a 17-year-old whom investigators described as a graffiti tagger pulled a small-caliber handgun and began firing at two members of a Westside gang, said Detective Bernard Rogers of the Los Angeles Police Department's anti-gang CRASH unit.

The teen-ager fired about six shots as the two gang members took off running down a tiled corridor that connects the shopping area to the parking structure. Most of the bullets were aimed down the corridor, Rogers said, noting that no shoppers were in the gunfire's path.

One of the victims, a 17-year-old, hurled himself through a glass door leading to the garage in his hurry to escape. He sustained numerous cuts and was treated at UCLA Medical Center. His companion, 18, suffered a superficial gunshot wound and was released from the hospital Monday night.

The gunman fled the ornate, pastel-decorated shopping center, located on Pico Boulevard between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue. He was caught in a nearby alleyway by the mall's chief of security--a former LAPD officer--who turned him over to police officers who were flagged down by witnesses.

The youth, whose named was not released because of his age, was being held in Juvenile Hall on two counts of attempted murder.

"There isn't a single community that doesn't have some gang members," said Rogers. About 50 of Los Angeles County's estimated 1,000 gangs are based on the Westside, between Normandie Avenue and the ocean, Rogers said. "They don't hang out in the mall--it's a little pricey for them--but there are gangs everywhere."

Ken Raffensberger, general manager of the 168-shop mall, said he was concerned about how the incident would be perceived, but added that he was confident the pavilion's security staff was adequate to handle any problems. He said that with more than 500,000 holiday shoppers expected over the next two months, he had already planned on adding security guards to handle the extra traffic.

Tuesday's shoppers, at least, seemed undeterred. "What are you going to do?" said Christina Larson, a paralegal who purchased a rolling pin from the Cook Works shop, right in front of where the shootout occurred. "It can happen absolutely anywhere."

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