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Panhandling Encounter Turns Deadly : Crime: A Van Nuys man is arrested in the fatal shooting of a transient who was persistently seeking handouts at a gas station.

September 25, 1993|JULIO MORAN and GEOFFREY MOHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Van Nuys man was arrested Friday morning on suspicion of shooting a panhandler who asked him for a handout at a gas station.

Charles Hoyle, 25, is accused of killing Reggie McKay, also 25, after they got into an argument Thursday night at the corner of Sherman Way and Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles Police Detective Joseph Aparicio said.

Hoyle was approached by McKay, whose last known address was in Canoga Park, as he got out to pump gas into his car at a Mobil station, Aparicio said. Hoyle refused to give McKay money and asked the station attendant to call police.

"The man told the attendant to call the police because the guy was harassing him," Aparicio said. Before the attendant could do so, McKay disappeared and police were not called, he said.

But when Hoyle returned to his car, Aparicio said, McKay reappeared and again began asking for money. The two men argued and Hoyle allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot McKay twice in the upper torso.

The gas station attendant called police to report the shooting. By the time police arrived, Aparicio said, Hoyle had left.

McKay was taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Homicide investigators identified Hoyle as the shooting suspect less than 12 hours later from several witnesses' descriptions, Detective Phil Morritt said. They also had a description of the suspect's car and a partial license plate number.

As police were preparing to arrest him at his home--less than a mile from the shooting scene--the suspect came out of his house, got into his car and drove away, Morritt said. Hoyle got about a block away before police surrounded the car and apprehended him. He did not resist arrest.

"The suspect admitted to the shooting, but stated it was in self-defense," Aparicio said. Hoyle was taken to the Van Nuys Jail and held without bail.

Gus Chahayed, who manages the Mobil station but was not there at the time of the shooting, said panhandlers frequent the area. But while annoying, he said, they are not usually threatening.

"We have some people at night, but we never have any violence," Chahayed said. "We just talk to them, they leave and we don't have any problems."

Other merchants disagreed, saying that the panhandlers become more than a nuisance at times.

"They're crazy. They scream and yell," said Virginia Lopez, manager of the Pic 'n' Save discount store on Sepulveda Boulevard, north of the gas station. "They were digging through the trash and we went out to chase them away," she said, describing a recent incident, "and they started throwing bottles at us."

At another nearby store, the manager, who did not want to be identified, fearing a backlash by panhandlers, said the situation got so bad last year that his security guards had to escort employees to their vehicles. He said the problem had eased recently.

Mary Lou Holte, founder of the TownKeepers Action Group, a neighborhood anti-crime organization, acknowledged that the panhandlers are a problem. But she said that violence is no answer.

"I think it's out of place to be shooting a transient," she said. "I'm not saying what they do is right, but you don't have to shoot them."

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