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Northridge shooting probe yields more arrests, sources say

December 04, 2012|By Andrew Blankstein and Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Police Department detectives have made additional arrests in connection with a quadruple homicide in Northridge, sources familiar with the investigation said.

The sources would not immediately identify the suspects nor would they detail what offenses they were arrested for. One of the arrests took place in Las Vegas overnight; it was not clear where the others occurred.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the killings appeared to stem from a dispute over personal property, although they would not say what kind of items were involved.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander said one of the suspects was believed to have lived in the illegal boardinghouse where the shootings occurred. Englander stressed that the information came from people briefed on the case but outside the LAPD.

A news conference is planned for later Tuesday, when the LAPD is expected to reveal more information about the case.

Officers responded to the home in the 17400 block of Devonshire Street about 4:25 a.m. Sunday after a 911 caller reported yelling and shots fired, police said. Authorities found four people -- two men and two women -- shot dead outside.

No weapon was recovered at the home, prompting police to rule out a murder-suicide. Three of the victims -- a man and two women -- were shot on the walkway on the left side of the home, a source familiar with the case told The Times on Monday. They were all wearing hooded sweat shirts and were about two feet apart from one another. All three had at least one bullet wound to the head.

One victim was crumpled on her knees, the source said, her face buried in the palms of her hands, "almost like she was praying." The other two victims on the walkway were face down.

The fourth victim -- a man -- was farther away and appeared as if he was trying to run to the backyard when he was shot. He had at least one gunshot wound, according to the source.

"It looked like a quick kill," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The names of the victims have not been released. Police said the women were in their mid-20s; one man was in his mid-30s and the other man in his late 40s.

Authorities said the home was an illegal boardinghouse, with up to 17 people living in conditions that Englander described as "deplorable." The home had so much debris and so many partitions that one room could be accessed only through a window, he said.

A trail of extension cords led investigators to the backyard, where several makeshift living quarters had been assembled.

The owner of the home, Yag Kapil, said he rented out rooms but denied he was running a boardinghouse. Kapil, 78, who lives at the home, said he is bedridden and was sleeping at the time of the shootings. He said he didn't hear anything and didn't know the victims.

The slayings stunned the quiet Northridge street, which residents said was the kind where neighbors knew one another and walked to the grocery store or synagogue nearby.

"It's usually sleepy-time America," said Richard Rutherford, 58, who was awakened by the gunfire. The violent-crime rate for Northridge falls in the middle of all Los Angeles neighborhoods, but homicide is rare in the community, according to LAPD data analyzed in The Times' Crime L.A. database. In the previous six months, Northridge had one homicide out of the 89 violent crimes reported.

Since 2007 and before Sunday's quadruple homicide, Northridge had 11 homicides, 10 of them south of Nordhoff Street. The location of Sunday's slayings is on the border with Granada Hills, which typically has a much lower violent-crime rate than Northridge.

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