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Burbank victims are remembered

August 11, 2007|Francisco Vara-Orta | Times Staff Writer

Shaken neighbors and friends Friday placed flowers outside the homes of a man and woman who suffered fatal gunshot wounds a day earlier at a Burbank apartment complex in what police described as a double murder and suicide.

"You hear of these situations happening in other parts of Los Angeles [County] but not here," said Jennie Kim, 16, who was in her family's apartment at the East Cypress Avenue complex when the shooting started late Thursday afternoon. "It's always quiet aside from some fireworks you'd hear sometimes."

Burbank Police Sgt. Matt Ferguson said the three fatalities included the suspected shooter, identified Friday as Rafael Shirinian, 48. Shirinian, who police said did not have a criminal record, apparently worked as a security guard, Ferguson said.

A fourth victim was in stable condition at a hospital with a gunshot wound to his upper body, Ferguson said.

All four of those shot were residents of the complex, police and neighbors said.

Ferguson said that initial police interviews with tenants seemed to indicate the shootings stemmed from a dispute earlier Thursday between Shirinian and the on-site apartment manager, but that a motive remained undetermined. Some tenants said Shirinian at times showed "animosity" toward some neighbors, Ferguson said.

The apartment manager, 48-year-old Vahik Farhadian, was among the dead. His son, 22-year-old Oshin Farhadian, survived the shooting, police said. The female victim, Manyam Mashihi, 49, was shot dead when she opened her apartment door and the gunman saw her, police said.

Ferguson said police found a handgun next to Shirinian's body, which was in his apartment. Police also found several pistols, several rifles and one shotgun in his apartment, but had not determined by late Friday whether Shirinian was licensed to have the weapons, he said.

Authorities said that when officers arrived at the scene, Vahik Farhadian's body was lying at the front of the apartment complex.

Oshin Farhadian, who police said had been with his father and ran when the shooting began, was taken to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and had surgery for injuries that were not life-threatening, said hospital spokesman Dan Boyle.

Police received 911 calls of an "active shooter" about 5:25 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. Officers were on the scene within three minutes.

Some neighbors said they heard an initial rapid burst of gunfire at the building, followed by a pause, then more shots. In between they heard screams.

Jennie Kim and her 14-year-old brother David, both students at Burbank High School, said they were watching television in their apartment when the shooting started. Jennie said she called 911 and then her parents.

"Police kicked in our door to get us out because we didn't want to come out in case the shooter [was] still around," David Kim said. "We're still feeling shock today."

Jennie said her family and many of her neighbors got along well with Vahik Farhadian.

"I kept locking myself out of my apartment and he'd always help me out with a smile," Jennie said. "He was really nice, so none of this about a conflict makes sense. It's been peaceful the past two years we've lived here."

Police said the last double murder in Burbank occurred in the 1980s. The city had only one homicide in 2006 and three in 2005, according to statistics from the FBI.

The two-story, 25-unit complex is in a middle-class neighborhood of mostly apartments and condos, near Ralph Emerson Elementary School and east of Burbank Town Center, an upscale shopping mall.

The apartment complex's chief manager, Zack Gerbs, who was Vahik Farhadian's boss, said Friday he did not know of any previous problems involving those who were shot.

"I think he [Shirinian] just snapped that day," Gerbs said. "But we may never know why now that he's dead."

Police said there were no other suspects in the shooting and no charges were expected to be filed.

"We couldn't have predicted this," said Gerbs, who greeted visitors who were leaving flowers and extending condolences to him and tenants at the complex. "Today I feel like I lost part of my family. They were good people who worked hard and they did not deserve this."

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francisco.varaorta@latimes.com

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