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Man confronting taggers is shot in east Hollywood

June 27, 2008|Francisco Vara-Orta and Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Times Staff Writers

An east Hollywood garage owner who was shot in the chest when he confronted two youths scrawling graffiti on his Thai Town business remained in stable condition Thursday, according to authorities and a relative.

The shooting occurred in the 5000 block of Hollywood Boulevard shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday when workers at the auto body shop spotted taggers painting 6-foot-high black letters on a wall, police said.

The gunshot victim and his employees were writing down license plate information when the alleged taggers got out of their car, said Sgt. Alfredo Flores of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The owner told the two youths -- each described as not much taller than 5 feet -- not to tag his property, Flores said.

One of the youths pulled out a handgun, shot the man in the chest, got back in the car and drove away.

Authorities have not released the victim's name.

Authorities suspect that the youths are tied to a local gang known as Armenian Power.

Surveillance video from the shop is being used by detectives, who said they think they have identified the youths and are searching for them now, said Police Cmdr. Pat Gannon.

He said other youths had been questioned but no arrests had been made.

A vehicle believed to have been used by the assailants was found Wednesday in the San Fernando Valley and seized by officers. The auto body shop had previously been tagged with graffiti and the owner had installed video cameras connected to the store's computers to monitor activity.

At the shop Thursday morning, a man who identified himself as the victim's brother declined to speak to reporters, except to say that his brother was doing fine.

The taggers' bold black letters were still fresh on the building's beige wall. Police advised residents that taggers, even those who seem like young kids, are often armed and can be dangerous.

"They're out there tagging, they're criminals," Flores said. "Call the police. Get the most info as you can, be the best witness, be involved in your community, take a stand."

Flores stressed that by taking a stand he meant residents should keep police informed, not confront taggers themselves.

Vilma Infante, 42, a single mother who works as a nanny, was on her way to take the bus to work Thursday. She said the shooting was the most violent tagging incident she has seen in her eight years in the neighborhood. She described tagging as "a big problem for the neighborhood."

"It's pure vandalism," she said. "I mean, don't they think that they are destroying their own neighborhood?"

At the Norwood Market a block from the scene of the shooting, owner Feroz Ahmed, 39, said he has been friendly with the wounded man, who had stopped in to buy something shortly before he was shot.

Ahmed said he has had to call city crews to paint over graffiti on the sides of his store so often in the three years he has owned it that they just started coming every week.

"I have 20 years of experience in this business, and I know not to mess with them," Ahmed said of the taggers. "Sometimes you feel like you are in the taggers' hands, so you feel powerless."

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francisco.varaorta @latimes.com

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molly.hennessy-fiske @latimes.com

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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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