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Suspect Freed Weeks Before Gonzalez Killing

Alleged gang member held in slaying of LAPD chief's kin had attempted murder charges dropped.

June 10, 2000|BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Less than three weeks before he allegedly killed Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' granddaughter, 18-year-old Samuel Sharad Shabazz was released from jail, where he had been awaiting trial on six counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Prosecutors were unable to proceed with the case against the alleged gang member because the witnesses against him could not be located, according to Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Shabazz, who sources say has a lengthy juvenile arrest record, including carjacking, robbery and vandalism, was released from the Los Angeles County Jail system May 9.

Lori Gonzalez, the chief's 20-year-old granddaughter, was killed May 28 when Shabazz fired at a passenger in her car, hitting her instead, police say.

The slaying stunned Parks' family. Her father, friends and former co-workers have described Gonzalez as a warm, family-oriented young woman. She attended Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and taught Sunday school. The victim was a longtime friend of Gray and had apparently spent the day with him before her death.

Shabazz, who was arrested Tuesday, had been held in County Jail since December, when prosecutors filed charges against him. He was jailed in lieu of $4-million bail.

The attempted murder and assault charges were filed first in Juvenile Court, but were refiled later in Superior Court after a judge agreed with prosecutors that Shabazz could be tried as an adult, Gibbons said.

But even before Shabazz's preliminary hearing in February, prosecutors were aware that police were unable to locate witnesses.

Detectives "told me months ago, well prior to the [preliminary hearing], that . . . police agencies had lost track of these victims and witnesses shortly after they had been released from the hospital where they had been treated," Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter Horstman wrote in a disposition report.

The district attorney's office then made a concerted attempt to find witnesses, assigning its own investigator to the case after detectives indicated that they were unsure if they would ever find them, Horstman said.

Efforts failed, however. Shabazz remained in jail until May 9, when the trial was scheduled to begin. But the district attorney's office, with the LAPD detectives' consent, withdrew the charges.

Such a resolution is common in gang-related shootings, said Gibbons.

"This is not an unusual outcome in a gang case," she said. "A lot of people don't want to be found to testify."

Shabazz, police allege, is a member of the West Boulevard Crips and was well known to anti-gang detectives in Southwest Los Angeles.

"He was a very active gang member," said LAPD Det. Brian Carr.

Arrest records show that Shabazz began committing crimes at a young age, moving through the juvenile justice system rapidly, sources said. Since he was 13, he had been arrested at least eight times on assault, robbery and vandalism charges, according to sources. He also was charged several times with violating probation.

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