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Man shot in broad daylight

At least 10 people witnessed rush hour traffic homicide

Posted: September 26, 2008 9:28 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Two homicide detectives take notes at the scene of an attempted robbery in Newhall on Friday morning. The suspect demanded money from the passenger of a white Ford Ranger, a Hispanic male in his twenties, and after a struggle, shot the man in the upper torso. He was later pronounced dead at Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital.

 

A passenger sitting in a pickup truck waiting for the light to change at a busy Newhall intersection Friday suddenly found himself locked in a life-and-death struggle with an armed robber.

He lost that battle.

The unidentified gunman shot the young Hispanic man once in the chest at close range as the two wrestled for the gun and their lives, according to investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau.

After he was shot, the victim staggered from the Ford Ranger pickup and collapsed on the curb on Lyons Avenue in front of the Washington Mutual Bank near Apple Street.

At least 10 people watched in horror as the brazen daylight gunpoint robbery attempt turned into a bloody homicide.

A physician who witnessed the shooting jumped out of her Lexus SUV and treated the victim. She struggled in vain, however, as the victim lay bleeding to death amid the routine clamor of morning traffic — workers arriving at stores and moms driving their kids to school.

Two of the 10 witnesses were drivers waiting next to the targeted pickup truck.

The victim was in the passenger seat in the Ranger in the lane nearest the left turn lane when a dark SUV pulled up behind the pickup, Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Coleman said.

The passenger in the SUV got out, walked to the truck and apparently demanded money in Spanish, stating, “Give me your money. I know you have money,” Coleman said.

The suspect pointed at the victim a chrome semi-automatic handgun, which discharged after a struggle sending one round into the victim’s upper torso, Coleman said.

The wanted gunman is described as an adult Hispanic male.

“We have approximately 10 witnesses, two who actually witnessed the shooting and several others who were in the area at local shops,” Coleman said.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives whisked away the driver of the targeted pickup truck and interviewed him at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, Coleman said.

“We do have the driver and the two people stopped at the intersection, at the same time, who observed the incident,” he said.

Coleman does not believe Friday’s murder is related to the shooting death of Anthony Lomardi a mile away on Sept. 16.

Lombardi’s body was found with gunshot wounds in the upper torso and his body, facing backwards, draped half outside and half inside the driver’s door of his Honda Accord coupe in the driveway of his home.

“I was the lieutenant at both (murder) scenes and that was our first thought,” Lt. Coleman said. “Apparently, they are disparate incidents and we don’t think the two are connected at this time.”
Asked if the Washington Mutual bank figured into the robbery or homicide, he said no.

“The information we have is that the bank is not connected with the incident at all,” he said. “They just happened to be stopped in front of a bank.”

When investigators wearing green identifiable “Crime Lab” jackets arrived, they found an armload of piled clothing, including a blue baseball cap, gathered together in a small pile on the street, a spent shell and a bullet near the clothing.

They roped off a wide area around the intersection west of Orchard Village Drive and rerouted traffic off Lyons and Apple.

Detectives were set to scour stores in the area, hoping store surveillance cameras captured images of the gunman and the suspect SUV, Coleman said.

“We’re hopeful that some of these offices and stores around here may have video footage of the incident,” he said. “If they do, at that point, we’ll certainly release it to the media to alert citizens and get all the help we can get.”

Meanwhile, shop owners in the area struggled to deal with the type of horrifying news they associate with the inner city and not with suburban Santa Clarita Valley.

“I am scared,” said Maria Levina, manager of Yum Yum Donuts on Lyons near Apple.

“All my customers stay away now,” she said. “Some of my customers tell me it’s dangerous to come this way, and I say ‘No.’ I feel very sad about the life that’s just gone.”

Levina’s shop was one of those trapped inside a police perimeter that stopped all traffic in and around the area.

One of her customers was at her door Friday morning, about to enter, when he was jolted by the sound of the shooting, she said.

“He said, ‘I saw a car drive so fast, but I didn’t see what kind of car it was,’” Levina said.

Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School Distict, was worried for the safety of public school students on “minimum days” scheduled to leave schools earlier Friday.

“We knew at noon we would have a lot of kids leaving. That was our big concern,” he said.

Winger kept students at four schools — Newhall, Peachland, Old Orchard and Wiley Canyon — inside at recess as a precaution, even though sheriff’s deputies assured him the threat of danger was gone.

Gary Kishner, spokesman for Washington Mutual, would not confirm reports received by The Signal that a bank employee witnessed the shooting and provided homicide detectives with accounts of what she saw.

“I wouldn’t want, in any way, to jeopardize the investigation or the safety of any witnesses,” he said. “There were no customers or employees injured during the shooting.”

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