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Police Find Few Leads in Killing of Grant Teacher

Times Staff Writer

Three weeks after Grant High School teacher Hal Arthur was gunned down outside his home in Sherman Oaks, police say they have interviewed more than 100 people but have yet to uncover a motive or identify a suspect in the slaying.

“We really haven’t narrowed it down,” said Los Angeles Police Lt. Dennis Dunn, who is overseeing the investigation into the March 24 killing. “There are still many different directions to look at.”

Arthur’s wife, Virginia, said last week that she was satisfied that police are doing everything they can. “I cannot say enough good things about the Van Nuys police” division, she said.

Dunn said five detectives assigned to the case have interviewed scores of friends, family members, students and business associates of Arthur. So far, though, authorities say they have come up with few leads in investigating the execution-style slaying.

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Arthur, who would have been 61 last Thursday, was shot three times in the back as he prepared to get into his car outside his home in the 13900 block of Milbank Street. Police said Arthur had just opened the car door when an assailant with a .22-caliber semiautomatic gun opened fire on him from across the street.

Drawing Released

A week after the shooting, police released a drawing of an unidentified suspect based on a description provided by a witness who saw a man speeding away from the scene.

The suspect was described as white, in his 30s, with dark brown, wavy hair and a slight mustache. He was seen driving away in a new gray or black sedan with no license plates.

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Detective Mel Arnold, another investigator in the case, said police received about 50 phone calls, mostly from Grant High School students, after the drawing of the suspect was distributed. Arnold said police are still checking information provided by the callers but would not comment further.

The chance that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity is only “a slight possibility” because it appeared to be planned, Dunn said. But “we haven’t ruled out anything,” he added.

Although police are exploring possible gang involvement in Arthur’s slaying, Dunn said, “No one affiliated with the investigation believes it is gang-related.” He would not elaborate.

Police also refused to comment on a lawsuit filed by a former Grant student who was detained for questioning the day of the shooting. Hai Waknine, 16, filed the lawsuit March 29 in U.S. District Court, charging that police did not have proper cause or evidence when they took him into custody to question him.

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Detectives said Waknine’s name had been given to them by several students who said he was known to possess weapons and possibly had a grudge against Arthur.

Waknine was released after it was determined that he was not involved in the killing, police said. The youth later attended a memorial service for Arthur.

Dunn said police will continue to explore all aspects of Arthur’s personal and professional life until some clue is found that may reveal why someone would want to kill him. “We’re still encouraging people to call,” Dunn said. “We can use all the help we can get.”

In the weeks since Arthur’s death, a combined reward of $40,000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer by the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the district’s teachers union, United Teachers-Los Angeles.

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