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L.A. police search for violent bicycle thieves

Two cyclists were shot, with one suffering critical injuries, as their bikes were stolen in Koreatown.

May 01, 2010|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

Concern over violent bicycle thefts in Los Angeles ratcheted up Friday as police announced their search for two thieves who shot two cyclists while stealing their bikes in Koreatown.

Police detectives said the bicyclists were wounded last month as they struggled to prevent two young men from making off with their bikes. One of the victims was so badly wounded in the April 4 shooting that he was hospitalized until last week.

"They nearly killed him," said LAPD Det. Dennis Bopp, who is investigating the shooting. "It was a crime of opportunity that turned to violence."

The Los Angeles Police Department reported a 29% increase in bike thefts last year compared with 2008. Nearly 2,000 bikes were reported stolen last year in the city, but authorities believe the actual number was much higher because many people don't report stolen bikes.

"We've had cyclists hit with baseball bats. But the fact that it is a gun here ramps it up," said cyclist advocate Steve Box. "The bike is the new iPod in terms of theft. You can sell it quickly."

Box said the incident reflects the lengths to which some will go to take a bike. He said while cyclists may be tempted to resist, they should "steer clear and let it go."

The shooting occurred about 3 a.m. April 4 when the two cyclists stopped at a catering truck at Pico Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue and left their bicycles nearby. Two young men in their late teens walked up and grabbed the bicycles.

The two cyclists gave chase, and a struggle for the bikes ensued. Bopp said one of the robbers pulled out a handgun and shot one of the victims. The second robber managed to fight off the other cyclist.

As the two thieves rode off, the one with the gun turned and shot the second cyclist in the shoulder, Bopp said. "He shot even though he'd already got away," Bopp said.

The man with the shoulder wound was hospitalized for a few days. The other victim was listed in critical condition because he suffered gunshot wounds to his vital organs. He was released last week but is expected to have a lengthy recovery, detectives said.

Bopp said police hope a security video from the food truck showing one of the thieves taking a bike will help identify the robbers. The video shows a man wearing a blue or black baseball cap, a blue sweater with long white sleeves and the letters "LA" on the chest, and blue jeans. He is described as Latino, about 5 feet 5, and weighing 150 pounds.

The second thief is described as about the same height and weighing 140 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black shirt and blue jeans.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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