Crenshaw Cage Star in Good Condition After Gang Shooting

Times Staff Writer

A starting guard on Crenshaw High School's state championship basketball team was reported in good condition after surgery Monday after he and a teammate were wounded in an apparently gang-related shooting at a hamburger stand near the campus, Los Angeles police said.

Detectives said Troy Batiste, 18, was wounded in the left thigh as he and two other Crenshaw High seniors, teammate Marcus Williams, 18, and Mark Day, 20, were shot at by three carloads of assailants, who shouted gang slogans as they fired at the Fatburger hamburger stand at 4444 S. Crenshaw Blvd. at 3:15 a.m. Sunday.

Members of the Police Department's South Bureau anti-gang detail said they could not explain the attack because the victims were not known to have any gang affiliations. Officers added, however, that the shooting may have been a case of mistaken identity but they refused to elaborate.

Officials at Daniel Freeman Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood said Batiste was resting comfortably after a bullet was removed from his left thigh Monday afternoon. The prognosis for his complete recovery is good, officials added.

Williams was treated for superficial wounds in his back from two gunshots and was released, hospital officials said. Day was not hurt in the attack.

Police said five suspects, all apparently gang members, were arrested in connection with the incident.

Darnell Washington, 21, Dwayne Reed, 19, and Melvin Williams, 18, all of Los Angeles, were booked for investigation of attempted murder, officers said. Two others were arrested but their names were not released because they are juveniles.

The wound was at first thought serious enough to threaten Batiste's future in basketball since the bullet was lodged near a major artery. Family members said he has been planning to go to Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyo., on a basketball scholarship.

But Dr. Gilbert Archer, speaking through a hospital spokesman, said the injury--provided it heals properly--will not affect Batiste's "future ability to play basketball."

The 6-foot-2 guard suffered "minimal" nerve damage, Archer said through hospital spokesman Jeff Merkow.

Reluctant to Comment

Family members said Batiste is alert but reluctant to make any public comments about the shooting because of the suspects' links to a street gang in South-Central Los Angeles.

"Sorry, we're just not saying anything," said one family member, who declined to be identified.

According to detectives, Batiste, Marcus Williams and Day were eating at the hamburger stand early Sunday morning when gang members, riding in three cars, drove up and surrounded the car that the three youths were in.

The assailants fired shots at the car and kicked in its windows, officers said. They then leveled their guns at the trio inside the car, firing at will.

"They were saying stuff like 'Blood this' and 'Blood that,' " Batiste told investigators.

At one point, the assailants demanded that Batiste hand over his Crenshaw letterman's jacket, but he refused, a family friend quoted Batiste as saying.

Flees, Flags Down Truck

Batiste ran away during the shooting at the hamburger stand and flagged down a truck on Crenshaw Boulevard driven by Orlando Brown and Ronald Brown, both 21.

The two told Batiste to jump into the truck, but the attackers quickly surrounded it and fired shots, investigators said.

As soon as the gunmen left, the occupants of the truck reported the incident to officers patrolling in the area. The five suspects were taken into custody soon thereafter, police said.

Those who know Batiste, including Crenshaw basketball coach Willie West, said they do not know why the player was shot at because he has no known gang affiliations.

"On and off the court, he's an aggressive individual," West said. "He's positive about what he wants to do, and then he does it. I've talked to him. He's OK. He'll be all right."

Batiste, who averaged 5.9 points a game as the team's play-making point guard during the 1985-86 season, scored 12 points when Crenshaw defeated Bishop O'Dowd High of Oakland, 70-69, for the state Division I high school championship last March.

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