YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


At Least 2 Wounded by Gunfire at Funeral

Police swarm Inglewood cemetery after what is believed to be a gang-related shooting.

October 28, 2003|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

A shootout at a mausoleum during a funeral Monday sent hundreds of mourners and visitors at Inglewood Park Cemetery crouching or running for cover as bullets were fired by suspected gang members and police.

At least two men were hit, but both appeared stable and conscious, paramedics said. Police, who were investigating the crime scene six hours later, said they had no information on the men's conditions and only sketchy details about what happened.

Numerous witnesses said multiple shots were fired within the mausoleum in the midst of a funeral about 2:45 p.m.

"People were screaming and running," said one woman, 27, who declined to give her name. Inglewood officers who had been monitoring the funeral then fired an unknown number of rounds as they tried to capture the shooters.

A counselor for the funeral home said she glimpsed a gunman chasing a screaming crowd of people down the corridors of the mausoleum. "It was chaos, complete chaos," she said.

Afterward, several hundred people, including mourners from other funerals and cemetery workers, were locked inside for more than three hours as police searched the property on Manchester Boulevard. Inglewood Police Chief Ron Banks called the effort "unprecedented," because of the size of the cemetery, which spans many city blocks across from the Great Western Forum.

Dozens of officers from at least 10 jurisdictions, including sheriff's deputies and school police, were called in to help with the lockdown and search for suspects.

The episode began after a funeral procession for 19-year-old Los Angeles shooting victim Keiyontate Bailey, led by a horse-drawn carriage, made its way from Angelus Funeral Home down Crenshaw Boulevard to the cemetery. The funeral drew about 300 mourners.

Los Angeles Police Department officers had been monitoring the procession to the Inglewood border, where Inglewood officers, in both black-and-whites and unmarked cars, took over, observing the funeral as it proceeded into the mausoleum. Police routinely monitor funerals where men suspected of belonging to gangs are present.

The 27-year-old mourner said Bailey's chrome casket was being put into a wall in the mausoleum at the end of the burial service, and the words "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" were being recited when gunfire broke out and people began screaming. She ran outside and saw police firing their weapons, she said.

Another witness, a 19-year-old man, also fearful of being identified, said that the shooting involved men from rival gangs who happened to cross paths in the mausoleum, possibly because two funerals were happening at the same time. He said he was in a group outside the mausoleum and that one of his companions was shot in the chest.

Police were shooting at them from about 100 yards away, the man said. He said no one in his group was firing, but it appeared shots were being fired toward the police from a location very near them. He estimated that 40 shots were exchanged back and forth for about two minutes.

Other witnesses gave varying accounts. A woman from a nearby neighborhood said she had seen two dark pickup trucks racing toward the cemetery with shots being fired from them. She said she was talking to her cousin, who was attending one of the funerals, when the cousin screamed into her cellular phone, "They're shooting! They're shooting! It's a massacre in here!"

Before the call ended, she said, she heard, "Pow, pow, pow, pow. Just going constantly, nonstop."

The counselor at the cemetery said she was talking to a grieving family member when she heard people crying out and running down the hall and shooting. Several dozen people then burst into her office, filling the room, as shots rang out, and she glanced into the corridor just in time to see the black barrel of a gun. She slammed the door and got on the floor, she said. When it grew quiet, she stepped out of the office, and saw that "there were bullet holes all in the wall."

Lt. Mike McBride, Inglewood police spokesman, said officers monitoring the service saw or heard shooting break out. The officers confronted some of the suspects next to the mausoleum and became "involved in a shooting with them in the parking lot." They then chased a suspect who got away, and a second shooting incident occurred a short distance away, he said.

Police said preliminary information suggested that three to five officers were believed to have fired their weapons. They said they did not yet know whether the two victims were struck by the officers' gunfire. At least one person was arrested, but police did not provide further details.

Hundreds of visitors and workers were still being held inside the cemetery hours after police locked down the perimeter and closed down streets for blocks around. After several hours, police could be seen at the edges of the cemetery with their guns drawn. Several were visible searching the building room by room with flashlights and walking the roofs. Helicopters with searchlights later circled overhead.

Los Angeles Times Articles