CITY NEWS SERVICE
Twenty years later, 22 riot-related homicides in Los Angeles County are still listed as cold cases.
Officially, 53 people died in the violence that broke out 20 years ago, fueled by the acquittal of four white police officers in the videotaped beating of a black man at the end of a car chase.
Nearly 1,600 buildings were destroyed or damaged and some 2,300 people were injured — mostly over the first three days. The damage was estimated at more than $1 billion, including $735 million in property damage.
Of the 53 people killed, 35 died from gunshot wounds, including eight people fatally shot by law enforcement officers and two killed by National Guard soldiers.
Of the eight people killed by law enforcement, six were killed by Los Angeles police officers, one by a sheriff's deputy, and one by a Pasadena police officer.
Six others died in arson fires. Two people were beaten to death with sticks and boards. Two were stabbed to death and one was strangled. Six died in car accidents and two in hit-and-runs.
The victims included 25 blacks, 16 Hispanics, eight whites, two Asians, one Algerian and one Indian American.
Based on coroner and law enforcement reports and records, interviews and other documents, CNS has compiled the stories of those 22 people whose homicide cases remain open.
One of them was Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese American who was killed on April 30, 1992 around 3:15 p.m. on Alondra Boulevard, east of Willowbrook Avenue, in Compton.
Even though full-scale rioting had been ongoing for nearly 24 hours, Monterey Park resident Lam, 25, continued making deliveries for his family's small grocery. According to the Sheriff's Department, he was driving eastbound on Alondra Boulevard, in his 1989 Toyota truck with a camper shell. He was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Alondra Boulevard and Willowbrook, when a late 1970s or early 1980s blue Cadillac pulled up alongside.
The front passenger, said to be a black man in his 20s, yelled a racial slur at Lam, then opened fire. Lam was shot four times, three times in the chest and once in the back. Lam suffered massive internal injuries and bleeding. He was declared dead in the emergency room at Charter Suburban Hospital. No suspects were identified.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.
Following are summaries of the other 21 cases.
• Arturo Carlos Miranda
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: Approximately 7:30 p.m. Location: Intersection of 120th Street and Central Avenue. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
Miranda, a 23-year-old Mexican American, his nephew Valentin Moreno and another friend were driving back from a South Los Angeles park when an unidentified blue car, filled with people, pulled up and fired one shot at the trio. The round hit Miranda in the chest, perforating his aorta. Inexplicably, his nephew and friend first drove Miranda home before they took him to Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. Miranda died at the hospital. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were found.
• Dwight Taylor
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: Approximately 8:15 p.m. Location: 467 W. Martin Luther King Boulevard. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD Homicide Southwest Division. (213) 485-6571
Taylor, a 43-year-old black man, was fatally shot in a drive-by attack. According to his wife and sister, he was on his way home from work when he was shot. Standing on a South L.A. street, Taylor was shot in the neck. The bullet cut Taylor's carotid artery. He died in the emergency room at California Medical Center. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were identified.
• Eduardo Canedo Vela
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: Approximately 9 p.m. Location: 5142 W. Slauson, Ladera Heights. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: L.A. Sheriff's Homicide Bureau. (323) 890-5500
Vela, a 33-year-old Mexican American living in Arvin, Calif., was driving with two friends through the riot zone when their car broke down on Slauson Avenue. Vela stayed with the vehicle, a light blue 1986 Ford Taurus, while his companions went to find a phone. Returning a half-hour later, they found Vela lying on his back in the street, with a gunshot wound to the chest. Paramedics were called and transferred Vela to Daniel Freeman Hospital. But ER doctors could not revive him. Vela left behind a wife. No witnesses stepped forward and no suspects were identified.
• Anthony Lamarr Netherly
Killed 04-29-92. Time: Between 9 and 10 p.m. Location: Intersection of 78th and San Pedro streets. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
Netherly, a 21-year-old black man, was found shot in the head on a South Los Angeles street by a passing motorist. This unidentified man loaded Netherly into his car and took him to MLK Jr-Drew Medical Center, where he died in the emergency room from brain damage. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were arrested.
• John Henry Willers
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: About 11 p.m. Location: 10621 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD Foothill Division. (818) 834-3115
Details are sketchy, but it appears this man's kindness cost him his life. Willers, a 37-year-old white man from Salt Lake City, Utah, was trying to help some people hurt in a head-on collision in Mission Hills when he was gunned down. Willers was hit by multiple rounds. The fatal shot pierced his heart. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were identified.
• Elbert Ondra Wilkins
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: Approximately 11:30 p.m. Location: Intersection of 92nd Street and Western Avenue. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
It was the first night of the rioting, a Wednesday, when Wilkins, 33, and a number of his friends drove to an area near 92nd Street and Western Avenue. The group was outside the car when a drive-by gunner opened fire on them. A bullet hit Wilkins in the chest, ripping into his aorta. Wilkins' friends drove him to MLK Jr.-Drew, where he later died. No witnesses stepped forward.
• Nissar Daoud Mustafa aka Wassir Daoud Nissar
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: Exact time unknown. Died in arson fire. Building torched Wednesday evening. Location: 1601 S. Western Ave. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: LAPD Major Crimes Division. (213) 486-7270
The J.J. Newberry Department store on South Western Avenue was burned on the first night of rioting. But the body of Nissar Mustafa aka Wassir Nissar, a 20-year-old man of Indian descent, was not found in the rubble until the morning of Aug. 12. An employee of Atkinson and Associates, the company in charge of the building's demolition, stumbled across it. Mustafa's decomposing body was first listed as a John Doe. Dental records eventually confirmed his name. An autopsy showed he burned to death. But his body showed no signs of injuries or gunshot wounds. So how he ended up dying there remains a mystery.
Witnesses told police they saw a Hispanic-looking man go into the building after looters were inside, but they didn't see him come out. Police later determined through evidence at the scene that Mustafa/Nassir was probably a looter. No suspects were arrested.
• Ira Frederick McCurry
Killed: 04-30-92. Time: Unknown, body found at 12:10 a.m. Location: Intersection of 102nd Street and Avalon Boulevard. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
McCurry, a 45-year-old white man, was found dead on the street. This South Los Angeles resident was shot through the right eye after pleading with arsonists and looters to spare the store next door to his house. The bullet never exited the skull, and he died of massive brain trauma. Paramedics removed McCurry's body from the scene. No witnesses were found. No suspects were identified.
• Meeker Mardah Gibson
Killed: 4-30 or 5-1-92. Location: 1040 E. Holt Ave., Pomona. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: Pomona PD. (909) 622-1241
Gibson, 35, was found dead at a Pomona gas station on May 1. This African American's body was slumped against a wall of the station. It appeared that he was using the pay phone when he took a shotgun blast to the chest. Gibson left behind a wife. No witnesses stepped forward. No suspects were identified.
• William Anthony Ross
Killed: 04-30-92. Time: Body found between 7 and 8 a.m. Location: 2882 Ninth Street. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: Major Crimes Division. (213) 486-7220.
Listed first as John Doe # 79, this 25-year-old African American burned to death inside a grocery store that was looted and torched in Koreatown. The owner of the market found William Ross's charred body on May 1 when he went to inspect the damage. Ross had died, curled up underneath a metal desk in the market's office. No ID or wallet was found, but a large amount of cash was recovered from his pants pocket.
Although no external or internal evidence of trauma was found, the coroner ruled the death a homicide. Tests identified cocaine, codeine and morphine in Ross' system. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were identified.
• Howard Epstein
Killed 04-30-92. Time: Between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Location: Intersection of Slauson and Seventh avenues. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
Epstein, a 45-year-old white male, from Orlanda, Calif., was driving west on Slauson Avenue when someone in another car going the same way shot Epstein in his left temple. Mortally wounded, he slumped into the passenger seat, and his Ford Thunderbird hit a tree. While Epstein lay bleeding, rioters robbed him and looted his car. The crowd's hostility was so intense that police had the car towed with the body still in it. Epstein had come to Los Angeles to check on his business. He left behind a wife. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were arrested.
• Gregory Davis Jr.
Killed 4-30-92. Time: 7 p.m. Location: Intersection of Vermont and 43rd Street. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD Homicide Southwest Division. (213) 485-2582
Davis, 15, was one of the riot's youngest victims. As he was walking near Vermont and 43rd streets, just hours after the violence erupted, an unknown gunman shot this black teenager in the forehead. The bullet, which produced massive brain damage, struck Davis around 7 p.m. No suspects were arrested. No witnesses came forward.
• Adolpho Morales aka Andre Garnica
Killed 4-30-92. Time: 7:15 p.m., Location: 2034 W. Pico Blvd. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: LAPD Rampart Division. (213) 484-3400
Morales, a 37-year-old Hispanic, was killed on Pico Boulevard just west of downtown about 7:15 p.m on the second day of rioting. Morales was found stabbed. Police found the knife at the scene, but could not lift any usable prints from it. Morales was initially identified as Andre Garnica, based on the identification he was carrying. Detectives learned his papers were phony and identified him as Morales. Police have found no witnesses in this killing and no suspects have been identified.
• Louis Amari Watson
Killed: 04-29-92. Time: about 7:45 p.m. Location: Vernon and Normandie avenues. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: LAPD Homicide Southwest Division. (213) 485-2582.
According to Watson's aunt, her 18-year-old nephew was standing with a group of people at Vernon and Normandie when an unknown gunman opened fire. Watson, who was black, was struck in the head. The bullet caused massive brain injuries and he was declared dead at California Medical Center. No witnesses ever came forward. No suspect was ever arrested.
• John Doe #80
Killed: 04-30-92. Time: Unknown. Location: 5801 S. Vermont Ave. Status: Case Open. Investigating Agency: LAPD Major Crimes Division.
Twenty years later, the identity of this white male remains a mystery. Police think that John Doe No. 80 — the only remaining John Doe — was killed when the Pep Boys at 5801 S. Vermont Ave. was torched. The arson took place between 7 and 11 p.m. on April 30. John Doe's body was not discovered inside the auto parts store until May 2. His body was badly charred.
The coroner's exam revealed a possible skull fracture, an indication he might have been knocked out inside the store. His body weighed in at 117 lbs. His height measured almost 5 ft. John Doe also had brown hair, a mustache and a goatee. His left three middle fingers were the only ones printable, but no match was found. His age was estimated at 35. Death was caused by smoke inhalation. No witnesses came forward. No suspects were identified.
• George Antonio Sosa
Killed: 04-30-92. Time: Approximately 8 p.m. Location: 2600 block Florence Avenue, Huntington Park. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: Huntington Park PD.
Sosa, 20, was reportedly looting a store in Huntington Park, when an unknown gunman shot him. Sosa was hit twice, the fatal round piercing his chest. Paramedics transported Sosa to USC Medical Center, where he underwent cardiac massage. However, they could not revive him. No witnesses were identified and the shooter was never found.
• Ernest Neal Jr.
Killed: 04-30-92. Time: about 11:30 p.m. Location: Western Avenue and 92nd Street. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: LAPD South Bureau, Criminal Gang and Homicide Section, Cold Case Unit. (213) 485-4341
A drive-by shooting in South Central claimed the life of 27-year-old Neal. This black man was standing at an intersection with another unidentified man when shots were reportedly fired. Neal was hit in the head. Paramedics transported him to Martin Luther King Hospital, where he died. No witnesses or suspects were identified.
• Kevin Andrew Evanshen
Killed: 5-1-92. Time: about midnight. Location: 11849 Braddock Drive, Venice. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: LAPD Major Crimes Division. (213) 486-7220.
Evanshen, a 24-year-old Anglo, became known as the “Good Samaritan.” He tried to put out a fire in the store while it was being looted. Evanshen went up on the roof and began hosing down the fire burning inside the building. But he stepped on an area that was weakened from the arson and fell through.
After firemen put out the blaze, Evanshen's charred body was recovered. The coroner reported the causes of death as smoke inhalation and burns. No witnesses came forward, and no one has been arrested for the murder.
• Wilson Alvarez
Died: 05-23-92, Assaulted 05-01-92. Location: 3100 Rosecrans Ave., Hawthorne. Status: Open case. Investigating agency: Gardena PD. (310) 217-9622
Alvarez, a 40-year-old Latino transient, was reportedly beaten down with sticks after he began throwing rocks at some looters. Alvarez was assaulted in the 3100 block of Rosecrans Avenue in Hawthorne. But Hawthorne PD was so busy that Gardena officers handled the investigation. Alvarez was taken by paramedics to USC Medical center on May 1, and died there on May 23. No witnesses or suspects were identified.
• Carol Ann Benson
Killed: 05-02-92. Time: Unknown. Location: Found on Harbor Freeway. Status: Case open. Investigating agency: LAPD So. Bureau Traffic.
Passersby discovered the body of Carol Benson, a 43-year-old black woman, on the Harbor Freeway near downtown. It appears that Benson, a South Los Angeles resident, was the victim of a hit-and-run. She suffered a broken neck and her body had been dragged underneath a car. CHP officers responded but she was already dead. There were no known witnesses, and no suspect was identified.
• Juan Veron Roberto Salgado
Killed: Date unknown. Time: Body discovered 05-20-92. Location: 3115 S. Main St., L.A. Status: Open. Investigating gency: LAPD Major Crimes Division. (213) 486-7220
A worker from a neighboring business discovered the body of Salgado, 20, under ash and dry wall debris, inside a burned-out clothing store, Collective Merchandise Inc., on Main Street. Salgado's corpse was not discovered until May 20, three weeks after the riot ended. However, it's believed the building was burned sometime on Saturday, May 2. The coroner reported the cause of death as smoke inhalation and burns. Police believe Salgado was likely a looter. The death was ruled a homicide because it was arson-related. But no witnesses have been located or arson suspects arrested.