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Hermosa Beach on Edge After Slaying

In a city of few homicides, last week's has some feeling uneasy. Driver Joel Bues, 25, had bought his BMW the night before he died.

March 24, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

The shooting death last week of a 25-year-old Hermosa Beach man driving a BMW on Pacific Coast Highway has generated a sense of unease in the usually laid-back town, which hadn't seen a homicide in at least a decade.

"It irritates me that this happened, because this is an attack on our city," said Mayor Sam Edgerton.

"This is the kind of place where you can leave your bike unlocked, where you can walk your dog at 3 a.m. and not hear anything."

The killing has engendered less fear than anger and annoyance. To Andy Lehman, who works at a clothing store in Pier Plaza, the shooting is a reminder of the violence he sees on TV news.

"We almost felt disconnected" from crime, he said. "It's like we were in a bubble down here."

Authorities said Joel Bues and a companion were sitting at a red light at Pier Avenue about 1 a.m. on March 11 when another car pulled up. An occupant opened fire, hitting Bues in the upper torso before the car sped away.

Police are still investigating.

Hermosa Beach's last homicide, which occurred in 1993, remains unsolved. Owen Timothy Hazlett, a homeless man who slept under the city pier, was stabbed to death, said Police Chief Michael Lavin.

Investigators suspected that the killer may have been attempting to rob Hazlett of money from a disability payment he had received the day before.

(The body of an 8-pound baby was found in a shopping center trash can at Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in 1995, but police don't know if the baby was killed in the city. Tests showed that the child died from asphyxiation and head trauma. The parents have never been found.)

Friends said Bues worked at his father's company, which maintains taxi meters.

He had purchased the BMW the night before he was killed.

"It was the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jaxi Close, the friend who sold him the car. "I just wish he had stayed home that night."

Hermosa Beach covers just 1.3 square miles and has 19,000 residents. It's one of Los Angeles County's more affluent communities, with a median income of $100,000.

Some residents said they didn't feel overly affected by the shooting because it occurred on a busy highway.

"PCH ... carries so much traffic" that the killing "really doesn't have an effect on me," said Jim Toomey who was washing his car Friday morn- ing.

"It's almost like it didn't happen here."

The crime left others uneasy, however.

"People just don't go around shooting people here," said Jane Christensen, who was walking her dogs near the street where the killing occurred.

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