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Variety of clues lead to arrest in slaying

A videotape, a tipster and DNA evidence from a plastic milk bottle help police identify an alleged gang member in a Hollywood liquor store shooting.

August 28, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

It was a graphic killing caught on videotape.

In the shadow of the glittering, revitalized Hollywood Boulevard, a gunman entered a liquor store, grabbing one clerk as he demanded money. The gunman then fatally shot the clerk in the head and wounded another employee.

A month later, LAPD detectives made an arrest in the slaying of Pulod Davlatnazarov, thanks to some unusual tactics.

Typically, investigators look for fingerprints -- difficult at a place like the Limelight Liquor Store, which has hundreds of customers daily.

But detectives saw on the tape that the gunman had picked up a plastic milk bottle just before the shooting. So they decided to see if they could get a DNA sample from the bottle.

It usually takes six months or more to process DNA evidence. But the crime lab made analysis of the evidence a priority.

Meanwhile, a tipster called police, saying he or she had seen the videotape on TV and could identify the shooter.

The DNA result came back, and police found that it matched the person the tipster had identified, authorities said.

"We got a DNA match, and he is the guy in the video," LAPD Deputy Chief Ken Garner said.

Eighteen-year-old Rodney Maurice Bourgeois was arrested Saturday and now faces murder charges.

The July 19 shooting prompted concern throughout Hollywood. The Limelight is on La Brea Avenue at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard, a few blocks from the famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Grauman's Chinese and El Capitan theaters and the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex.

"It happened right on the boulevard of hopes and dreams," said Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who got the council to approve a $50,000 reward.

Davlatnazarov, 39, was taking college classes, working two jobs and sending money home to his family in Tajikistan, said the owner of the Limelight, who out of safety concerns asked not to be identified. Davlatnazarov had worked at the liquor store for two weeks, the owner said.

Detectives said the clerk was planning to bring his family to the United States once he had earned enough money.

"He was a very good person. He didn't smoke or drink. He was a vegetarian and a Muslim," the store owner said. "He was always polite."

Davlatnazarov came to Los Angeles after struggling to find work in Tajikistan.

"We are planning a fundraiser and we're trying to get hold of his wife," the store owner said.

The injured employee, 69-year-old Vladimir Akkerman, was the store's previous owner. Bored with retirement, he occasionally worked at the store, the current owner said.

"He just underwent surgery on his chest and is recovering at home," the owner said.

A Japanese tourist who wanted to buy refreshments at the store discovered the bloody scene, LAPD Det. Vicki Bynum said.

The detective said friends and family in the old country could not believe what happened.

"People in his hometown are really shocked that this could happen here in the heart of Hollywood," she said.

Davlatnazarov's slaying was captured on the store's security cameras. A young man with prescription glasses is seen going to a refrigerator, removing a half-gallon plastic container of milk and going to the counter, where he asked Akkerman its price.

He then put the milk back and walked to the rear of the store, breezing past the "employees only" sign and into the room where Davlatnazarov was working.

When he next appeared on the videotape, the man had Davlatnazarov by the collar and was propelling him at gunpoint toward the counter. Both Davlatnazarov and Akkerman appeared "totally cooperative," detectives said.

At the counter, the man demanded money, pointing his gun back and forth at each of the employees. Akkerman then reached for the panic button, and the gunman began shooting.

Bourgeois is an alleged member of the Carver Crips who goes by the name "Sniper," according to gang investigation records.

The 18-year-old has a criminal record, law enforcement sources said.

Davlatnazarov's boss believes that whoever killed the clerk deserves the ultimate punishment.

"Who did this probably deserves the death penalty," the owner said.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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