By Kurt Streeter
8:46 PM PST, December 14, 2013
Four people were killed in Compton on Saturday morning after a high-speed pursuit by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies ended with the pursued car slamming into another vehicle before flipping and bursting into flames.
The collision happened about 12:30 a.m. at the intersection of West Greenleaf Boulevard and South Wilmington Avenue, said Sheriff's Sgt. Peter Ramirez. The car was being pursued after it was pulled over by deputies who believed it matched the description of a vehicle used in a shooting that had just occurred. As the deputies got out of their cruiser, the car sped off, starting the chase.
After about two miles, the pursued car — carrying a woman and two men — ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle before slamming into a light pole, a brick wall and a garage. After catching fire, it ended up so badly burned that dental records and fingerprints may be needed to officially identify the three occupants, and it could take days to figure out the car's make and model, Ramirez said.
The car it hit — a gray Chevrolet Monte Carlo — veered out of control and also hit a wall, ending up crumpled on a sidewalk about 15 yards from the intersection.
By late Saturday, the Los Angeles County coroner had positively identified only one of the victims: Stacey Garcia, 30, of Los Angeles. A coroner's spokesperson could not confirm which vehicle she was inside.
At the scene of the fiery crash, however, several family members told The Times two of the people in the pursued car were Larry Gilmore, 35, and Shawnice Osborne, 20.
"It's terrible to see two cars so mangled up," said Keith Wright, who said he was Gilmore's brother. Wright described Gilmore as an expert mechanic, known in his Compton neighborhood as someone who could repair almost any vehicle.
"My brother's car is upside down," Wright said. "It's all burned up. That's no way for someone to die."
Wright — along with Faye Smitheal, who described herself as the mother of Gilmore's girlfriend — repeatedly questioned why deputies needed to engage the car in a chase. Both felt a helicopter could have been used to track the car, and both said concerns over high-speed pursuits furthered race and class tension between law enforcement and residents of Compton, which is mostly African American, Latino and working class.
"This would not happen in a wealthy, white neighborhood," Smitheal said, tears in her eyes. "It would not happen in Brentwood."
Shawnice Osborne was described as bright and bubbly. A recent Compton High graduate who moved to Southern California about 15 years ago from the Stockton area, she lived with her parents and had recently been grieving the loss of her boyfriend, who died of a blood clot.
"She was very responsible and caring, so I'm just shocked," said her grandfather, George Starks, a church pastor, as he stood near the charred wreckage on Saturday. "I don't know how she got in this mess, but this is the terrible end result."
Osborne's granduncle, Michael Starks, also a local pastor, said the pursuit and crash showed that people in the community should not run from police. "They shouldn't be afraid," he said. "I think the community needs to come together and tell our youth, do not be afraid of the law, do not make them chase you. You can't outrun them."
George Starks said he'd been told by deputies that his granddaughter had been driving when the car was pulled over, and that she had sped off.
A woman's body was found behind the wheel of the flipped-over car, Ramirez confirmed, though he cautioned that it would take an investigation to determine who was actually driving.
The tragedy unfolded after a report of "multiple shots fired" came from the 100 block of West Indigo Street in Compton, Ramirez said. Nobody was hurt in the shooting, but shortly afterward the deputies made the traffic stop that sparked the chase.
Ramirez said "circumstantial evidence" ties the car to the shooting — including its description and location, and the fact that its driver tried to elude police — but a full investigation is underway.
Times staff writer Alicia Banks and photographer Irfan Khan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times