CHATSWORTH — A fistfight one night earlier apparently precipitated a confrontation that left one Chatsworth teen-ager dead and a man in jail on suspicion of murder, police said Monday.
Police fanned out across the West Valley, searching for witnesses and a motive in the fatal shooting of Andy Suryaatmadja, a 16-year-old Chatsworth High School student. Police said Suryaatmadja was shot once in the back of the head Saturday night by Scott Howard Breverman, 23, while fleeing with friends after a confrontation at Breverman's house.
Ill feelings between one group standing in Breverman's driveway and a small group of teen-agers led to a fistfight Friday night, police said. Those involved then summoned friends, who returned to Breverman's house on Hiawatha Street Saturday night and began taunting Breverman and challenging him to come outside and fight, police said.
The group came to seek revenge, but apparently did not know who they were looking for, said Los Angeles homicide Detective Tom Broad. Breverman has said he was sick in bed Friday night and not involved in the initial confrontation, according to police.
"It sounds like it was a neighborhood fight, a schoolyard fight," Broad said. "The guy who gets his butt kicked the first time might try again. Unfortunately, I don't think the guy they took on the first time was the guy they took on Saturday night, and this guy had a gun."
Police interviewed members of the group that taunted Breverman, but learned little. "They're clam city," said one detective.
"But at this point, motive doesn't really become an issue," said Broad. "The fact is Scott Breverman chose to walk outside and empty his gun magazine at individuals who were running away from him and represented no threat to him."
When Breverman did not come out of the house Saturday night, the group of six to 10 youths--including several reputed associates of a prominent Valley-based Asian gang--began striking Breverman's silver BMW with pipes and sticks, Broad said.
Breverman then began shooting a semiautomatic handgun through the glass windows of the front door of his home, and then went outside and "emptied the magazine" at the youths as they fled down the street, Broad said.
Suryaatmadja, who police said had no gang ties, was shot about 9 p.m., and died a short time later at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, police said. His older brother, Timotheus, also was at the scene but was not injured, police said.
After the fatal shooting, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said Breverman "has been under investigation by the agency for cocaine trafficking," but DEA officials had no further comment Monday. They acknowledged that they had never arrested Breverman or charged him with any crime. A Glendale police detective, Officer Louie Haloulakos, said Monday that Breverman was investigated over the past 18 months as a potential co-conspirator in a yuppie cocaine trafficking ring known as the Monkey Boys, but that no charges were ever filed against him.
There were no indications, according to police, that drugs had anything to do with the shooting.
Breverman's mother, Janet, and a family friend at the house Monday said the house was raided by drug agents several years ago. She said authorities were looking for Breverman's friend, who was renting a room there and was admittedly using drugs.
Janet Breverman, who was in her home at the time of shooting, defended the youth, saying he fired in self-defense after unknown assailants began threatening him and his house and car.
She said that the Saturday night attack began without warning, and that she feared the crowd of people outside intended to inflict serious damage.
"I definitely think he saved at least the house," she said of her son, who remains in jail. "There's no knowing how far things would have gone."
Breverman, an avid BMX bicycle racer and high school dropout, is a health nut who shunned drugs and even alcohol, friends said. "I know he never took drugs," his mother said Monday. "I mean, he won't even eat meat."
Broad, head of homicide at the LAPD's Devonshire Station, said police have all but ruled out drugs as playing any role in the Friday and Saturday incidents.
Breverman has been convicted in four misdemeanor cases, and received a 30-day County Jail sentence after pleading no contest in 1989 to a single charge of possessing property that he knew was lost. Breverman also pleaded guilty to reckless driving, and driving without a valid license.
"We've gotten a lot of information about Scott Breverman being involved in criminal activity, but there's not an indication that this particular incident is in relationship to some other criminal activity," said Broad. "It was a dumb confrontation that appears to be over next to nothing. I saw no evidence of drug use anyplace."
This story was written by staff writer Meyer. Correspondent Mrozek contributed.