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Victims of Valley Village restaurant shooting were targeted, police say

The owner of the Mediterranean eatery says the six Armenian victims were the last of a group of 30 to 40 who had rented the restaurant after a funeral. Four died and two are in critical condition.

April 05, 2010|By Carla Rivera
  • A crime scene cleaning response crew takes photographs of bullet holes marking the wall of the Hot Spot Cafe in Valley Village, where a shooting Saturday afternoon left four men dead and two in critical condition.
A crime scene cleaning response crew takes photographs of bullet holes… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

The owner of the Valley Village restaurant where four men were shot to death and two others were wounded said Sunday that police retrieved video from a camera at the entrance that shows who entered and left the building.

Artour Balian said the victims were sitting together and were the only customers inside the Hot Spot Cafe at the time of the shooting. They were all that was left of a group of 30 to 40 people who had reserved the cafe earlier that day and had arrived about 1 p.m. after attending a funeral, he said.

He said the cafe mostly serves groups who book the restaurant for birthday parties and other special events.

The victims had been sitting quietly, talking among themselves and didn't appear disturbed in any way, said Balian. They were served short ribs, sturgeon, hummus and other traditional Armenian foods.

Balian said he had just left the restaurant at the time of the shooting, to return to his home nearby.

He said he received a call from an employee about 4:30 p.m.

"They said 'hurry up, hurry up, they're killing each other,' " Balian said.

He rushed back to the restaurant and encountered a man drenched in blood walking on the sidewalk. Balian said he looked inside, saw the carnage and called police.

Police were searching Sunday for one or more gunmen in what they said was a targeted attack. They have not determined if the shooting was gang-related, nor have they established a motive.

"We don't have a crazed gunman running around North Hollywood that presents an immediate threat to public safety, to anyone in their homes or businesses in the area," said Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese of the Los Angeles Police Department. "However, this is also not a random act of violence, this was an intentional act."

The dead men were identified as Hayk Yegnanyan, 25; Sarkis Karadjian, 26; Harut Baburyan, 28; and Vardan Tofalyan, 31. Authorities did not say where the men lived. The two injured men were in critical but stable condition at a local hospital and were expected to survive. All of the victims are ethnic Armenian.

Detectives working on the case could not be reached for comment about the videotape.

The restaurant sits near a busy corner of Riverside Drive and Colfax Avenue in a neighborhood of apartment buildings and single-family homes. Someone had left a spray of white lilies in front of the restaurant's door Sunday. A trail of blood spattered the sidewalk for several yards.

The outside plaster wall of the building was pierced by several bullets.

Balian said he was still badly shaken by the incident but would reopen his business.

"It's a terrible thing to happen," said Balian. "It's hard to start again but what can we do?"

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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