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Burger Stand Patrons Safe After Gun Battle Linked to Rival Gangs

Times Staff Writer

A gunfight, thought to be between members of opposing gangs, broke out in the parking lot of a Sepulveda fast-food restaurant early Friday morning, sending customers ducking beneath tables but apparently resulting in no injuries, Los Angeles police said.

The short gun battle occurred at 2:45 a.m. at Tommy’s Burgers in the 15700 block of Roscoe Boulevard, police said. There were no arrests. Although police found only six bullet shells at the scene, a restaurant security guard said several more shots were fired.

“There was a whole bunch of shots fired, maybe 20, 30,” said security guard Frank Garrett, 27, who said he fired a shot in self-defense during the two-minute battle. “Before I knew it, everybody in Tommy’s parking lot had guns and was shooting.”

Garrett told police the combatants were gang members who came from a Reseda roller rink, but because no one was identified or arrested in the shooting, investigators could not confirm that the incident was gang-related, police Lt. L. A. Durrer said.

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However, police said some gang members who go to the Sherman Square roller rink Thursday nights are known to go to Tommy’s afterward. On a Thursday night last year, a person was seriously injured by a baseball bat during a gang-related attack in the Tommy’s parking lot, police said.

Tommy’s officials expressed dismay over the latest incident. “Something like this is unfortunate and unexpected,” said Brent Maire, operations manager for the chain of 17 restaurants.

“There is certainly not a gang problem there,” Maire said. “We try to provide a nice, healthful environment for our customers, and we want to ensure we have a safe place.” There have been no other recent reports of gang violence at the restaurant, police said.

Garrett, one of two armed security guards at the restaurant, said the shooting began shortly after the arrival of several cars of gang members who regularly go to the restaurant after leaving the roller rink. He said he had talked to them on previous occasions and learned that they were gang members.

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He said the regulars were eating in their cars when a car apparently containing rival gang members cruised through the parking lot. Gang hand signals, insults, threats and finally shots were exchanged between the people in the cars, Garrett said.

He said that during the shooting he saw one of the gunmen point a weapon at him. Garrett said he fired one shot at the man but missed, then ducked behind a car with the restaurant’s other security guard.

The gunmen fled in their cars before police arrived. Garrett said he went into the restaurant and saw about 10 customers crouching below the tables.

Durrer said one of the customers, a woman who was not identified, found three bullet holes in the side of her car. He said there was no other damage reported.

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Garrett said he plans to remain a security guard at the restaurant, but next week he will take an added precaution. “I’ll be wearing a bulletproof vest,” he said.


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