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2 Men, Teen-Ager Arrested in Fatal Shooting at Mall

Times Staff Writer

Three suspected San Fernando Valley gang members--two adults and a teen-ager--were arrested Sunday morning in connection with a shooting in a crowded Panorama City shopping mall that left a 16-year-old youth dead, authorities said.

Cousins Roger Leon White, 22, and William Stalling, 18, of Pacoima were taken into custody about 8 a.m. Sunday in the death of Sergio Alpuche of Van Nuys, who was struck by gunfire as he shopped with friends Friday at Panorama City Mall.

White and Stalling were arrested at Van Nuys Jail on suspicion of murder and were being held without bail. They will be arraigned Tuesday in Van Nuys Municipal Court.

A 16-year-old Pacoima resident, the brother of one of the two men, also was arrested but had not been charged. The youth was released Sunday afternoon to his mother. The teen-ager’s role in the death was still under investigation, said Detective Mel Arnold of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys Division.

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Arnold said all three suspects are active gang members. White was on parole for an attempted-murder conviction, he said.

Alpuche, who police said was not a gang member, was hit when shots erupted during an argument between rival gang members. Several shots were fired and a single small-caliber bullet struck Alpuche in the head. He was taken to Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, where he died at 1:50 p.m. Saturday.

Arnold said police found White, Stalling and the youth at a home in the 8400 block of Cedros Avenue in Panorama City after they had searched three other locations in the Pacoima area earlier in the morning.

At a news conference announcing the arrests, Arnold was vague about details of the investigation pending the formal filing of charges against the two men. “We linked them to the killing--that’s what’s important,” he said. “One thing led to another, and that led to another, and that led to another.”

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Arnold credited witnesses with providing important information during the 2-day investigation.

“I think the city of Los Angeles is sick and tired” of being terrorized by vicious gangs, he told reporters.

Police called Friday’s shooting an isolated incident, but Arnold said that many Pacoima-based gang members are moving their operations into the Panorama City area. The walls of an abandoned store at the north end of the mall, built in 1979, are covered with gang graffiti.

At the mall Sunday, a guard, who asked that his name not be used, said security at the mall had been increased since the shooting. He refused to elaborate and said stores in the mall had been instructed to remain silent on the incident.

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