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2 `senseless' killings in an hour

The harbor area is stunned by the deaths of two men, both 34, gunned down in unrelated incidents Tuesday night.

December 08, 2006|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

They were killed within an hour of each other, one as he stood in his driveway, the other while paying for groceries at a convenience store.

Both were 34. They were killed in the same part of town, and police suspect gang members in both shootings.

And as best as anyone can tell, neither was doing anything more than minding his own business.

The first to die Tuesday night was Arturo Mercado, who was sipping a beer in his driveway in the Harbor City area of Los Angeles when he was shot in the chest. The second was Kendall Chun, who was buying groceries at a Wilmington market when a man appeared at the door of the store and opened fire.

Chun was killed and a man standing beside him was seriously injured.

Mercado worked at a restaurant not half a mile from his home. Chun was a concrete inspector working on the Garden Grove Freeway project.

"I just don't want him to go away as another statistic," said Michael Shafer, the chef and owner of the Depot Restaurant in Old Torrance, where Mercado had worked for 15 years.

There was similar sentiment for Chun.

"The poor guy was just an innocent bystander and it's a horrible tragedy," said Los Angeles Police Det. Mike Falvo, who is investigating Chun's slaying.

As police from the Harbor Area Division put together the two cases, they came to believe that they may have been gang-related, but not necessarily committed by the same people.

According to police, the first call came at 7:45 p.m., with a report of a man shot in the 1500 block of West 205th Street. Police said Mercado was with two friends when he was approached by at least one person and shot.

Shafer, who described Mercado as "an essential part of my little family at the restaurant," said he'd heard some words were exchanged with the gunman. "That's how ridiculously senseless it was," he said. "Everybody gets into scrapes in his life, but not to have it end like this."

Shafer said Mercado started working in his restaurant as a prep cook, washing dishes and doing other menial chores, but over the years he'd worked his way up to a point where he could perform virtually any task.

"He was the most useful person in the kitchen for me," said Shafer, who bridled when he heard the killing was at first being described simply as a gang shooting. "He will be sorely missed in his own little community. He was there for me and everyone else in my kitchen."

At 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, the second call came in, this time about a shooting at Carlos' Market at 601 Wilmington Blvd. According to police, Chun was paying for his groceries as another man walked into the store to check on the progress of his wife, who was standing behind Chun.

As the man walked past Chun, a gunman began shooting. Chun was hit in the chest and died at the scene. The other man was shot, but survived.

The shooter got into a four-door Honda Accord, where three others were waiting, and escaped, police said.

Falvo said Chun was not a gang member and had no gang connections. He said police were checking to see if the injured man, who was not identified, had gang affiliations.

"We've been trying to put together everything and follow up on some leads," Falvo said. "It's a senseless, savage act."

michael.kennedy@latimes.com

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