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Man Shot When He Confronts Drug Dealers in Alley

Times Staff Writer

It’s a matter of protecting your space, Mary Campbell said. You try to ignore the daily marketing of illegal drugs in the alley behind your Crenshaw area apartment, but when dealers use your car as a storage space, you have to do something about it.

“The police find the stuff there--and they’d come right to us,” Campbell said.

That’s what her husband was thinking Monday when he found a dealer’s cache in one of the three broken-down cars he keeps behind his apartment on Gibraltar Avenue, she said. Michael Campbell told his wife that he was going out to talk to the drug dealers about them using his car.

Shot in Abdomen

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Minutes later, one of the dealers who had set up shop in the alley shot Campbell in the abdomen, police said.

Paramedics took Campbell, 27, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was treated for an abdominal wound. He was transferred out of the intensive care unit Tuesday in stable condition.

“I heard shouting back and forth, and then I heard shots,” Mary Campbell said. “At first it didn’t dawn on me that it was Michael. You hear shooting all over. Almost everyday you hear a gunshot. But then I saw him, bending over and holding his side. He told me he had been shot.”

Campbell and some of her neighbors said their block of down-at-the-heels garden apartments has become a haven for drug dealers, with cars lining up in the alley like customers at a “drive-through” store. “I saw a Rolls-Royce out there one day,” she said.

Lots of Drug Dealers

“There are a lot of gang-bangers in the area dealing dope,” said Detective John Bunch of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Division. “They can do business in the alleyways, and if a police car comes in, they just blend right into the neighborhood.”

One neighbor said she had witnessed five shootings on the block in the last year. “You hear shots and you hear screams,” said the woman, who would not give her name, “and the next thing you know, they’re rollin’ out the bodies.”

Some residents of the block complained Tuesday morning about slow police response and made disparaging comparisons to heavy police coverage in Westwood after a passer-by was killed in an apparent gang shooting 2 1/2 weeks ago.

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“They’ll come a lot quicker for a shooting than for a missing child,” the woman who would not give her name said. “And don’t bother reporting a stolen car. Call the police and say they stole your car on Gibraltar Avenue, and (you) will be sitting here at 10 o’clock tonight, waiting for the police.”

‘Big Deal’ in the Papers

Asked about the allegations of slow response, Detective Bunch said: “It’s slow every place. They’re making a big deal out of it in the papers now, but we just don’t have the manpower out there.”

Campbell said her husband had already had other confrontations with drug dealers who had cut holes in the fence between his building and the adjoining building.

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“My husband asked this fellow what he was doing with a wire cutter,” she said. “The guy explained that he was cutting holes so he could escape if the police came. Michael said, ‘I don’t care about that. Do it to your own building.’ ”

She said her husband, a beefy 6-feet-3 and 260 pounds, usually ignored the drug dealers. “He doesn’t interfere with what they do, as long as they don’t mess with his space,” she said.

The Campbells, who have four children, moved to the area six months ago from Las Vegas. The husband has enrolled in a trade school to learn auto body repair work, and the wife recently quit her job as an assembler in an electronics factory. “I didn’t have anyone to watch the baby,” she said, indicating her 3-year-old daughter, Crystal.


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