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Mid-City Grocer Slain in Robbery That Netted $18

April 11, 1993|SOMINI SENGUPTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Since the ABC supermarket on Pico and San Vicente burned down in last spring's riots, Mid-City residents came to rely on Eduardo Garcia, a friendly produce vendor who offered credit, accepted food stamps and sold fresh goods at low prices.

Garcia was intent on helping those victimized by the disturbances. Last Wednesday night, he became a victim himself--shot and killed by two teen-agers who fled with only $18.

Police said Garcia, 32, had parked his produce truck shortly after sundown in the 1700 block of South Highland Avenue and was serving his customers when the two boys came up to truck. One of them drew a handgun and demanded cash.

A customer turned over $18 he had in his pockets. Garcia told the boys he had no money and offered them food stamps, said Detective Dan Andrews of the Wilshire Division.

"One of the suspects raised the gun and shot him in the head," Andrews said. Garcia died on the spot.

Garcia, who lived in South Los Angeles with his wife and infant, had been a fixture in the quiet, working-class Mid-City neighborhood where he sold fresh produce and other foods for more than five years.

"He became a very popular little man," said Gerri Gordon, 39. "He would blow his horn and everybody would be out there. He's going to be missed around here."

Gordon's 70-year-old mother, Annie, said she is unable to travel to the grocery store and depended on Garcia for food deliveries.

"He would bring me Sunny Delight orange juice and eggs every week," she said. "He used to call me 'Grandmother.' "

Kids in the neighborhood bought chips and candy from Garcia. Mothers who needed milk for their babies but were unable to drive to a grocery store waited until Garcia tooted his horn.

"We really need him," said a 49-year-old resident who did not want to be named. "He was a heck of a nice guy. It's a shame it had to be him."

Garcia came to the United States from Mexico seven years ago. He began his mobile grocery business by cruising around the William Mead Homes housing project, east of Chinatown, in a tiny truck originally stocked with only fruits and vegetables. His willingness to provide groceries on credit and the convenience of his well-stocked grocery truck made him one of the most popular people in the project.

Each morning, Garcia would spend several hours buying produce and baked goods from wholesale grocers Downtown. Last winter, he told The Times he cleared $250 to $300 a week for himself out of an average $1,800 in sales, but he enjoyed his job. "I like it," Garcia said. "I work for myself."

At least two ice cream vendors and an orange vendor have been killed in local robberies in the past year. Andrews said Garcia "is the first produce vendor I can recall being killed. Vendors have money, they're out there and frequently, they're targets."

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