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Pastor says man shot to death outside his church was not a member

Pastor says man shot to death outside his church was not a member
Two prayer candles knocked over by vehicle traffic lie in the driveway of the 88th Street Temple Church of God In Christ in Westmont, where a man walking with his wife was shot to death and a security guard was wounded Wednesday evening. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

While authorities said a man who was shot to death in the Westmont area Wednesday evening was walking his wife to church at the time, Pastor Anthony Williams said that report is wrong.

Williams, the pastor at 88th Street Temple Church, said Thursday, "That report is inaccurate."

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The man "was not dropping off his family here, he was not even a member here, we've never seen him before," Williams said. "He was just walking by the outside of the gate and began to speak to the security guard."

Williams said the shooting occurred outside the gates of the church and that those involved "weren't parishioners here."

The fatal shooting, which also injured another man, occurred at about 7 p.m. in the 8800 block of South Vermont Avenue near the church.

In a news release, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said a 36-year-old man was walking his wife to church when he stopped to talk to another man who was near a parking lot entrance.

An adult male soon confronted them with a firearm. There was a brief exchange and the suspect opened fire, the Sheriff's Department said. The suspect then fled.

The 36-year-old victim, identified by the L.A. County coroner's office as Los Angeles resident John Matthews, was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Garry King, 36, was a friend of Matthews. He said the man had a stepdaughter and a teenage son.

"He always had something positive to say to somebody," King said.

King saw Matthews minutes before the shooting at a liquor store. Matthews said he was planning to hang out with King later, but he wanted to check on his kids first.

Later that night, there was a knock on the door. A friend told King that Matthews had been shot.

Williams said the other man who was shot Wednesday night was a security guard who had been working at the church for a few months.

Williams had just started Bible study at the church Wednesday night when he heard gunfire.

"I ran out to find my security guard hobbling towards me," Williams said. Authorities said the wounded man underwent surgery and is now in stable condition.

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The shooting marked the second homicide in the Westmont neighborhood this year. About a mile and a half south on Vermont, Robert Brewer, 21, was killed Jan. 23.
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Since 2007, the area has seen 102 homicides, according to The Times' Homicide Report. In a county of 10 million people, the unincorporated Westmont neighborhood is among the deadliest places to live, according to an analysis of homicide data.
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Anyone with information on Wednesday's shooting is asked to call the sheriff's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
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