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4 Die as Apparent Drug Rip-Off Goes Awry in Compton

Violence: Carwash owner and three workers are found shot to death. Police are seeking two robbers.

January 27, 1998|DOUGLAS P. SHUIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An apparent drug-related robbery escalated into a bloody shooting rampage that took the lives of four men--three employees and the owner of a Compton carwash, police said Monday.

"The intent of the perpetrators was a drug rip-off that went awry," Compton Police Chief Hourie Taylor told reporters Monday.

Compton police are looking for two robbers who they believe got angry during a holdup and began firing at the four men inside the Wheel's N Stuff carwash, 1400 Sportsman Drive.

The victims were identified Monday as owner Charles Hurd, 33, of Corona and three workers, Michael Hoard, 41, Shawn Potter, 20, and Jessie Dunn, 36, all of Compton.

Police discovered the bodies after responding to a call Sunday morning reporting trouble and shots fired at the carwash and auto detailing business.

On Monday, the nondescript carwash at Sportsman Drive and Atlantic Boulevard was padlocked. It occupies two rundown buildings--a small office structure and an open garage--surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, a barrier typical of businesses in the area.

One of the robbers fled in a white El Camino owned by one of the victims, and the other fled in a black Honda Accord that the two gunmen are believed to have arrived in, said Compton Police Lt. Danny Sneed.

The killings bore a striking similarity to the slayings of four men less than three weeks earlier during an apparent drug-related robbery at a Compton car shop.

Both multiple murder cases involved alleged drug-related robberies, the takeover of businesses and left four people dead, but Sneed said the killings appear to be the work of different gunmen.

The men wanted in the carwash shootings are African American. The men wanted in the Jan. 9 car shop shootings are Latino, Sneed said.

The carwash had figured in at least one drug investigation several months ago, but Sneed said the business "is not a regular location for problems."

Drugs and cash were found at the car shop where the earlier slayings took place. But Sneed would not reveal what evidence had turned up at the carwash to lead investigators to believe that drugs were involved in those killings.

Neighbors, who asked not to be identified, said that about a month ago there was an exchange of gunfire outside the carwash in what appeared to be a confrontation between rival gang members. They also said there was heavy traffic at the carwash, although relatively few cars appeared to be stopping for a wax or detailing job.

No one working in the area was willing to speak publicly about operations of the carwash or the men who worked there.

Sportsman Drive is a dusty industrial street close to the Los Angeles River. A hand-painted sign at Wheel's N Stuff advertises carwashes at $8 and $10 and full detailing at $40. Across the street is a vacant lot occupied by rusted-out trucks, scrap lumber and other cast-off material. Auto repair shops operate just down the street behind high fences. Mechanics working under the hoods of cars barely looked up before waving off a reporter Monday.

"You don't say anything to anyone in this neighborhood," said one worker Monday, declining to discuss the rampage the day before. "You stick to yourself and mind your own business."

Sneed said police were still seeking motives, but investigators believe that drugs or drug money touched off the slayings.

"The investigation is still at a very early stage," Sneed said. "We think the suspects became upset at not having their demands met and then killed the four victims."

Sneed said each of the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

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