An Atlanta-based rapper was fatally shot in the valet waiting area of the Beverly Center mall Monday by a suspect who fled in a silver Mercedes SUV, according to police. Officers later detained a "person of interest" as he approached the ticketing area at Los Angeles International Airport armed with a gun.
The shooting occurred about 3:10 p.m. in the parking garage of the popular Westside mall, sending diners in nearby restaurants diving for cover.
Dolla, a rapper whose real name is Roderick Anthony Burton II, was shot in the head as he and several other people stood near the center's La Cienega Boulevard entrance, according to police, witnesses and Dolla's publicist, Sue Vannasing. A friend of the rapper's who was at the Beverly Center and a Los Angeles Police Department official also confirmed the victim's identity to The Times.
Burton, 21, arrived at LAX from Atlanta earlier in the day and went to the Beverly Center to shop, Vannasing said. After the shooting, Burton was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a few blocks from the mall, where he died, police said.
The LAPD has not announced a motive for the attack or identified any suspects. Detectives are questioning a woman they detained at the scene and a man who allegedly drove from the mall to LAX in a rented silver Mercedes SUV.
About an hour after the shooting, the LAPD issued a bulletin for a 20-year-old man considered a "person of interest" in the shooting. Los Angeles Airport Police officers spotted a man fitting the description in the ticketing lobby of Terminal 1.
"The suspect was detained without incident [and] discovered to be armed," said Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
Police later found the Mercedes in an airport parking lot. LAPD officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the continuing inquiry, said they are investigating whether the man was trying to get a flight out of L.A.
Burton was an up-and-coming rapper who had recorded several singles. He was in town to work on his first album, slated to be released this summer on Jive Records, Vannasing said.
His first single, released in 2007, was "Who the . . . Is That?"
The killing comes 12 years after another shooting in Los Angeles threw the rap music business into turmoil. In that case, the rapper Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death outside the Petersen Automotive Museum, about two miles from the scene of Monday's killing. Theories over the motivation for that killing have caused controversy ever since.
The LAPD has not released a narrative of what happened in the mall garage.
But Vannasing said Burton apparently had a dispute with some people, perhaps at the airport.
"They followed him to the mall because they knew he was coming," Vannasing said. She added that Burton was at the mall with another rapper, D.J. Shabbazz.
Police officials said they could not confirm or deny that account.
Burton was born in Chicago in 1988 and moved with his family to the Los Angeles area and then to Atlanta, according to a biography on his MySpace.com page. The biography said he witnessed his father commit suicide at age 5 and turned to crime to support his family at 10. He began rapping at 12 and formed a group called Da Razkals Cru, according to the biography.
The group impressed rappers P. Diddy and Missy Elliot. They signed a record contract in 2001. But within two years, Burton -- who was modeling for P. Diddy's clothing line, Sean John -- began a solo career. A song of his was included on the soundtrack for the 2006 dance movie "Step Up."
The shooting rattled shoppers and diners. At a Chipotle restaurant near the valet area, 10 people were eating when the shots rang out.
"The customers were yelling, 'Close the store, close the store, because somebody is shooting!' " said Elsa Hernandez, general manager of the restaurant.
The center is normally quite peaceful, said Hernandez, who has worked at the restaurant for six years.
"This is the first time this has happened here," she said.
Newton Cacho, 31, who works across the street from the Beverly Center, was stunned by the violence.
"I'm very surprised something like this happened here. You come to a nicer part of town and you don't expect this," Cacho said.
Del Vaughn Walker, 44, had just left his car with valets and was heading to P.F. Chang's for lunch when he walked by a woman and three men, one of whom was Burton.
There was no sign of an argument. But moments later he heard two gunshots, then three more. He ducked and ran into the restaurant.
"I never would have expected this," he said. "You would have expected some kind of verbal confrontation."
Times staff writers Richard Winton and Alexandra Zavis contributed to this report.