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Praise and Insults for Man Who Killed Tagger : Violence: Reporters and well-wishers flock to talk to William Masters. But victim's family says gunman is no hero.

February 04, 1995|NICHOLAS RICCARDI and JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

William Andrew Masters, surrounded by media attention and public praise Friday following his release from jail after killing an 18-year-old graffiti vandal, blamed the dead youth's mother for the slaying, calling her an "irresponsible, uncaring parent" for raising a criminal son.

The family of Cesar Rene Arce in Arleta shot back, blaming Masters' mother for raising a "paranoid."

The volley of insults flew as Arce's family remained in mourning Friday, and Masters spent the day giving telephone and personal interviews to reporters. The interviews were interrupted by dozens of well-wishers calling his Sun Valley home.

Describing the encounter early Tuesday under the Hollywood Freeway, where he came upon Arce and a friend, David Hillo, 20, of North Hollywood, spray-painting graffiti on the freeway support columns, Masters said they had tried to rob him.

"This situation is what everybody lives in fear of--a couple of skinhead Mexicans robbing you at 1 a.m. with a screwdriver," he said.

Masters, 35, said he blamed Arce's mother.

"She murdered her son by being an irresponsible, uncaring parent," he said. "Nobody who has been raised by responsible, caring adults goes around making armed robberies."

Since Arce's death, his grieving mother has spent hours in the room of her slain son, wrapped in one of his jackets, unable to speak about what happened, the family has said. Arce's sister Lilia, who continues to visit the site of his death, has done the public speaking for the family.

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Lilia Arce said Masters' comments about her mother were especially cruel. "My mom always tried to keep us out of trouble," she said.

"It's his mother's fault for making that kid so paranoid. . . . He's not a hero, he's a killer.

"There's going to be justice. He's going to go back to court," she said, referring to the possibility that the Los Angeles city attorney's office could bring misdemeanor charges against Masters for carrying a concealed pistol without a permit.

Congratulatory calls also came from Latinos, Masters said. And he said his greatest fear was that he would wind up "the poster boy for Aryan Nation," the white supremacist group.

Masters reiterated that he did not shoot Arce and Hillo because they were painting graffiti, but because "they were committing an armed robbery and when I tried to walk away from them they sprung on me," he said.

Masters was released Thursday after the district attorney's office ruled that he killed Arce and wounded Hillo in justifiable self-defense. Masters had a reasonable fear that Arce and Hillo--who admits he was carrying a screwdriver, but said he did not regard it as a weapon--were going to seriously injure him, prosecutors said.

Masters, an actor who has had small roles in television shows and local plays, says he encountered Arce and Hillo while he was on one of his customary late-night strolls in a desolate, industrialized part of Sun Valley. Masters and Hillo agree the confrontation began when Masters wrote down the license plate number of the taggers' car.

When he said he planned to give the number to police, they demanded the paper, Masters said.

Masters said he gave up the paper and the two then tried to rob him, which Hillo denies.

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Police and the district attorney's office said they were flooded with dozens of calls from graffiti-haters, expressing support for Masters, but that public opinion played no role in the decision not to prosecute him.

A mile from Masters' house Friday, a group of self-described taggers at Branford Park said they did not regard the killing of their friend as heroic.

"He's not a hero," said Manuel, a 17-year-old tagger who was with Arce minutes before was killed and who declined to give his last name. "A hero saves lives. He took one."

Friends said Arce had joined the CFK tagging crew, which stands for "Crew Forever Known" or "Crew For Kings," the Friday before he was shot. They said they plan to paint a legal mural somewhere in honor of Arce, whose tag, "Insta," could be seen Friday near the underpass where he died.

But several youths said the killing has caused more caution.

"There's kind of like a feeling that somebody is going to come up and shoot us and say, 'Hey, I can get away with it,' " said Tony, 18.

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