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Forced to Flee Home, Pair Feel Put Out

Crime: Man, 77, and wife, in wheelchair, endure a long, chilly day outdoors. Police seeking a suspect use battering ram on property.


NORTH HOLLYWOOD — As chaos surrounded them on Friday morning, Walter Milosevich and his wife, Mary, were oblivious to the sirens, the spurts of automatic gunfire and the buzzing helicopters.

He was on the phone, trying to get through to her doctors. She was in bed, where she spends most of her hours since being hospitalized in September.

The first sign that this would be no ordinary day came at about 10:30 a.m., when Walter, who is 77, peered out the kitchen window and saw a police officer in his yard, pistol pointed at the sky.

"I was wondering what the hell was going on," he recalled. "Can I help you?" he asked the officer, stepping out the front door.

Three officers, their guns drawn, crept into the house the couple has shared on Radford Street for more than 30 years.

Los Angeles police, believing a bank robbery suspect was hiding in the backyard shed, ordered the couple out of the house at about 11 a.m. Police dogs had picked up a scent, and Walter recalled the officer saying, "You're going to have to leave because we're gonna get him out."

Walter told his 67-year-old wife, "The police have come, so you better get dressed." Then, he said, "I put the wife in the wheelchair, put a blanket around her and wheeled her out the front door."

He said he doubted anyone was hiding in his shed. But, he added, "when the police say go, you go."

As their exile grew beyond just a few hours, the couple tried calling their grown son in Santa Clarita several times but only got his answering machine. He was out looking for them.

By day's end, Walter had pushed Mary's wheelchair for miles around the perimeter of one of the most violent crime scenes in memory. A police battering ram had flattened their back wall and shed. Their garage door was peeled away, the roof of Mary's car was crushed, and tear gas canisters littered the floor.

Walter, a retired Lockheed employee, pushed Mary to a neighbor's house, then to a fast-food restaurant down the street. He bought her a hamburger, but didn't have enough cash to buy one for himself. Then off they went, down Lankershim Boulevard to Victory. And back again.

"I was just trying to kill time," said the 20-year naval veteran of two wars. Along the way, he heard there had been a thwarted bank robbery and shootout.

Walter walked on through the day.

"The pattern was pretty much the same, pushing and walking, pushing and walking," he said.

The couple's son, Ivan Milosevich, was equally frustrated. "It was fruitless. Nobody was keeping tabs on them," he said.

Eventually, someone told Walter what the police battering ram had done to his shed. By sundown, Walter and Mary were cold and tired. They returned to their barricaded neighborhood.

"Mary started complaining of the cold, so I informed the goddamn police officer that she was cold, and that we lived in the house they trashed and to inform headquarters to get us off the street," Walter said. "We had words."

The officer just told him: "Get off the street! Get off the street!" Walter recalled. If only it were that easy, he thought.

Around 7 p.m., Ivan spotted his parents at the Circle liquor store. He had been searching the neighborhood for two hours.

"My mom was shaking," the son recalled. "She said, 'I'm cold. I want to go home.' " They climbed into his van, and spent the next three hours there getting warm, until police let them back into their home.

In the end, there was no suspect hiding in the shed. Nor were there any explanations, Walter Milosevich said Saturday, as a stream of curiosity seekers, some driving luxury cars, plucked the toppled bricks from his wall for souvenirs.

A Los Angeles Police captain said late Saturday that a department representative had been sent to the couple's house to discuss the damage and possible compensation. But Ivan Milosevich said his parents had yet to hear from a city or police official.

"No one with the city has made a proactive effort to contact us," Ivan Milosevich said Saturday. "We've seen lots of looky-loos, but nobody from the city."

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