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A Morbid Aftermath to Store Rampage

Crime: Two decomposed bodies are found in Long Beach gunman's home where parents lived.

June 01, 2002|JOSE CARDENAS and SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The grim story of the calm, bald gunman who killed a checker and a little girl at a Long Beach supermarket grew more bizarre Friday as police revealed a startling discovery: The remains of two people found in the man's condo a block from the store had been there more than a year.

The bodies of the unidentified pair--so decomposed that even gender identification was daunting--were lying on a bed in a back bedroom where a window overlooks the Top Valu Market, the scene of the gunfire Thursday.

Antonio Pineiro, 48, shot six people before an officer fatally wounded him, Long Beach police said.

Pineiro owned the small two-bedroom unit at 436 Cedar Ave., where police and residents say his elderly Cuban parents lived. Friendly and outgoing, in contrast to their son, neither has been seen by neighbors for more than a year.

"I asked him where they were," said condo neighbor Paul Cook, who recalled Pineiro regularly carrying large laundry detergent boxes to the unit, sometimes three at a time. "He said they'd moved."

It was unclear if the bodies were Pineiro's parents, or how they died.

Neighbors described his mother as crippled, saying it often took her 15 to 20 minutes to climb a short flight of stairs, her husband following to guard against a fall.

The two people Pineiro killed at the store lived in the downtown neighborhood around the store.

Barbara Ibasco, 8, a cheerful third-grader, lived on Cedar, a block from the gunman, and on the night of the shooting she was at the store with her parents to get ingredients for a chocolate cake.

Marcella Perez, 38, who worked several jobs to get by, lived half a mile from the store where she worked as a checker and was shot, her family suspects, as she tried to protect the little girl.

Conrado and Myrna Ibasco, Barbara's parents, were grazed by bullets, hospitalized Thursday and released. Police identified the other surviving shooting victims, who were not critically injured, as Richard Coleman, 32, of Los Angeles, and Concepcion Henriquez, 58, of Long Beach.

Police knew little about the gunman, characterized by neighbors as a portly and "slow-moving" oddball with no apparent job or interests--cordial as he passed in hallways, often laden with groceries, but lacking the warmth of his parents, Maria and Antonio Sr.

When a neighbor offered, more than once, to help him bring groceries inside the apartment, Pineiro always declined.

The couple were described fondly by neighbors as charmers, especially liked by children to whom they gave candy. None of the residents in the 1950s-era condo building smelled or noticed anything unsavory about the Pineiros' unit 15.

"Were the bodies moved? Was someone managing the smell of the apartment?" Long Beach police spokesman Dave Marander asked rhetorically. "We may never know what the real story is here."

According to police, witnesses and those who knew the gunman and victims, there was no apparent target or motive that provoked Pineiro to shoot up his local market. As far as anyone knew, he had no beef with the store, no bounced check, no tattered romance with a clerk or bagger.

In fact, neighbor Cook passed Pineiro in the parking lot as Cook walked out of the store, and the men exchanged waves.

Pineiro, he said, was standing calmly in the parking lot outside the front door, wearing his standard outfit of light blue pants and light blue or white shirt. Though his frame was imposing at 5 feet 9 and 280 pounds, Pineiro was a rather quiet and unassuming man, neighbors in his building said.

Krystal Smith, who rents a neighboring condo, said Pineiro's daily routine was predictable: He would get up, go to the mailbox, go to the store, walk around the neighborhood, and not much else. He didn't seem to have a job or anything else to do.

Her son remembered one odd moment the day before the shooting. On Wednesday, he saw Pineiro a few blocks from home, waiting at a bus bench, and he was crying.

"I could tell he was crying," said Dequan Smith, 12, "because he took off his glasses and wiped his eyes."

On Thursday, shortly before 5:30 p.m., police started getting frantic 911 calls that a man with two guns had entered the store and was shooting at people. He was still firing when officers arrived. They rushed in and confronted Pineiro, who fired at least one shot before police wounded him. Pineiro died that night in surgery.

Conrado Ibasco, a nurse, said he stopped to buy cigarettes on his way home from work, and happened upon his wife and daughter at the store. He wandered away from them, and the daughter and mother got into the checkout line.

Ibasco heard gunshots and started to run, then he saw his wife. She was screaming. Then he saw his daughter. She was on the floor, covered with blood.

The gunman was in the middle of the store, Ibasco said, and was approaching the couple, forcing them to leave their daughter's limp body. The gunman, he said, was big, bald, very calm, and wasn't running around, just standing.

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