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2 Men Killed in Shootout at Store in Santa Monica

Crime: Two others are wounded. Incident brings to five the number slain by gunfire in city in 15 days.

October 28, 1998|JOHN L. MITCHELL and ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two men were slain and two others were wounded Tuesday in a gang-related shootout at a "hip-hop" clothing store in Santa Monica, police said. The incident raised the death toll from gunfire in the usually quiet city to five within 15 days.

The part-owner of the clothing store, who was wounded, is a 25-year-old former gang member who was trying to leave the gang scene, said Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts Jr.

The retaliatory shooting was the latest in a series of violent encounters between a gang based in Culver City and Mar Vista and a Santa Monica gang, Butts said.

Detectives declined to identify any of Tuesday's victims. They said officers were looking for several young men who were believed to have fled in a car after the gunfire.

Witnesses said about 15 shots were fired during the brief melee that erupted in the store in the 2200 block of Lincoln Boulevard at about 12:15 p.m. At least one handgun was found in the store, but ownership of the weapon was not clear.

The two men who were killed--one was 27 and the other 18--were visiting the owner from San Luis Obispo County, authorities said.

The other wounded man was a 21-year-old customer from Santa Monica. Both the customer and the part-owner were taken to nearby hospitals. There were no reports on their conditions.

The recent spate of gunfire in Santa Monica has shaken the beach resort city, which had only one homicide in 1997 and where police say violence has decreased in recent years.

The killing that drew the most attention was that of tourist Horst Fietze on Oct. 12.

Fietze, a 50-year-old from Loebau, Germany, was shot, apparently by robbers, during a stroll with his wife and another couple near the Loews Beach Hotel.

All of the shootings, except the one involving Fietze, were gang-related, Chief Butts said Monday night at a Santa Monica City Council meeting.

In an effort to curtail gang-related shootings, the Santa Monica Police Department has leased a helicopter to help patrol the city two days a week. Officers are working longer shifts than normal. And officers will be working with gang experts from neighboring police departments.

The helicopter, leased from the Pasadena Police Department for $2,700 per day, will patrol the city on Fridays and Saturdays beginning this weekend.

The aircraft is equipped with an infrared detection system that can spot the heat generated by people, automobiles and other sources. Officers will also be working 12-hour shifts instead of 10 hours.

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