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Arrests Follow Job Site Injuries

September 18, 2006|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Two day laborers were injured Sunday when they were hit by a car whose driver and passenger shouted racial epithets as they raced through a Laguna Canyon hiring site, Laguna Beach police said.

The driver, Artem Soloviev, and his passenger, Dennis Katpilniy, both of Laguna Niguel, had gone to the site about 9 a.m., saying they wished to hire someone for a digging project at Soloviev's house, said Sgt. George Ramos.

But when one worker declined the terms of the proffered job, Soloviev, 23, and Katpilniy, 18, started arguing and fighting with the man and another laborer, police said.

The pair returned soon afterward and allegedly drove through the hiring site at a high speed, hitting two workers and damaging several tables and a fence, Ramos said.

Workers were forced to jump out of the path of the car as it circled a parking area, witnesses told police.

Ramos described the injuries to the two workers as minor, and neither victim was hospitalized. A third man, injured in the earlier fight, was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose.

Soloviev and Katpilniy were arrested after police were summoned and arrived at the site, saw the vehicle and made a traffic stop, Ramos said.

They were held on suspicion of attempted murder and committing a hate crime, Ramos said.

The Laguna Canyon hiring site has been the scene of protests after members of the Minuteman Project border patrol group sought to close it down this summer. It was closed briefly and then reopened.

Sunday's incident was condemned by Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist. He said neither of the two suspects sounded familiar and were unlikely to be Minuteman members, although he had no immediate access to a membership list.

"If it turns out these people are bona fide members of ours, we're not sticking up for them," Gilchrist said."

Gilchrist said the project's goal in Laguna Beach has been to demonstrate peacefully under the 1st Amendment and obey the law. The project doesn't endorse anyone "who steps out of those bounds and engages in vandalism and violence," he said.

Several demonstrations have been held, the largest July 15 when about 250 people on opposing sides of the immigration debate shouted slogans and exchanged insults. For the most part, the protests have been peaceful.

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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