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Man Who Kills Neighbor After Noise Dispute Fatally Wounded

Crime: He ambushes victim at their San Clemente apartments and is hit as well, perhaps from a ricochet. Note said a second, unrelated killing was planned.

April 02, 2002|DAVE McKIBBEN and PHIL WILLON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A San Clemente man on Monday shot and killed a downstairs neighbor who for weeks had complained about loud noise and music coming from his apartment, authorities said.

The victim, Jaroslav Liska, 47, was gunned down in the apartment carport around 9 a.m., shortly after witnesses heard shouting. Moments later, the suspect, Peter Mehran, 25, also died--suffering a fatal head wound that police said may have been caused by a ricochet from his own semiautomatic pistol.

Police also found a handwritten note inside Mehran's car describing plans for a second, unrelated murder--including details about how he would change his physical appearance and dispose of the evidence after the attack, Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said. Neighbors in the community, a few blocks from the beach, expressed shock at how a routine feud between two neighbors could turn into a shooting rampage with at least a dozen rounds fired.

"It's hard to believe," said Jerry Anderson, who owns the building. "Maybe it was [as simple as] noise from walking around ... that was upsetting to [the] bottom unit."

Neighbors heard shouting and then gunfire outside the Baha Park Apartments, at 3204 Avenida del Presidente in San Clemente.

Witnesses told police Mehran was waiting for the victim in the carport.

Liska's girlfriend and at least one other neighbor witnessed the shooting, Amormino said.

"I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and I heard pop-pop-pop-pop!--about 12 shots," said Donald Morin, 36, a personal trainer who lives in the apartments next door.

Morin said he saw the gunman firing wildly from beneath the carport's cement overhang.

"It looked like he was shooting at random: He was shooting toward the right and shooting to the left, like he was mad. Then he shot one up in the air," Morin said. "He shot up right in the air. The carport's overhang was right above him. It looked like it ricocheted and hit him."

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the gunman turned the gun on himself or was killed by a stray bullet, Amormino said. Police initially suspected suicide, he said.

Liska, dressed in gray shorts and a windbreaker, was found lying face down in the driveway.

A small grocery bag was next to him.

His body remained there, uncovered, until the early afternoon.

Because of fears there might be a second gunman, police cordoned off the block and a sheriff's SWAT unit swept through the apartment complex, igniting a flash grenade in the gunman's apartment.

Nothing suspicious was found, and police believe Mehran acted alone.

The playground at Concordia Elementary School is just yards from the area where the shooting occurred, but the school was empty Monday because of spring break.

The apartment building's owner, who does not live at the complex, said the suspect had lived there for about two months and had never caused trouble. The victim made complaints about noise from the apartment above him, he said.

"We have very good tenants. This is shocking. It's ... quiet and peaceful here," Anderson said.

Mark Takemiya, who lives in the building where the shooting occurred, said Mehran was an "odd guy" who once got very angry at him when he mistakenly pulled his car in the gunman's parking spot.

"He scowled at me every time he saw me after that," Takemiya said Monday evening.

Marisa Hidalgo, whose third-story apartment overlooks the carport area, said her three young children were in the living room watching cartoons when the gunfire erupted.

"I heard really loud yelling, a few insults and curse words, and three or four seconds later I hear pop-pop-pop! Then a three-second space, then another round of bullets," Hidalgo said. "After the first pop, I dropped my kids to the floor and covered them."

*

Times staff writer Tina Borgatta contributed to this story.

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