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Fugitive Found on Blue Line

March 30, 2003|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

On Saturday, $1.35 cost fugitive Loren Preston Key his freedom.

Key was wanted on suspicion of shooting three people, including two Detroit police officers, last May. He had been profiled on the TV show "America's Most Wanted" and sought by the FBI.

Saturday, he boarded the Metro Blue Line without paying. About 1 a.m., Sheriff's Deputy Scott Harper took Key and three other fare delinquents off the train in Long Beach.

"He said he was just a working man who didn't have enough money for the fare that day," said Harper. "He never got angry, which in retrospect was surprising given what we found out about him."

Key's identification card was "pretty bogus-looking," said Sheriff's Lt. Mike Parker. Still, he made a convincing "Laron Anthony Thomas," the fake name he used, Parker said. "The deputies debated.... Numerous times they doubted themselves and almost let him go." At the sheriff's station, a fingerprint scan revealed Key's identity.

Key, 33, is accused of shooting the Detroit police officers after they responded to a report of a hostage-taking. Key allegedly got out of a car and shot them as well as the car's owner, a 25-year-old man, and stole the car. All survived.

He is being held without bail.

"For $1.35, you can buy a ticket and not be inconvenienced" by deputies checking for fares, Parker said.

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