Witnesses to a drug bust that ended in a hail of gunfire at the Alpine Village tourist complex criticized Redondo Beach police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Friday for conducting the narcotics sting in a busy restaurant parking lot.
“There are plenty of parking lots around. Why this one?” asked Hans Rotter, an owner of the popular Bavarian-themed cluster of shops and restaurants near Carson.
Rotter and others said the complex was bustling with customers when the shoot-out erupted at 6 p.m. Thursday between lawmen and four suspects, one of whom was shot dead. Unsuspecting folk dancers gathering for a weekly event had been filtering into a restaurant just 50 feet from the alleged drug buy, witnesses said.
A sheriff’s spokesman defended the operation, saying the location of the sting was dictated by the alleged drug dealers. Sgt. Robert Stoneman said the agencies involved did their best to keep the operation away from bystanders, “but it was a clear case of an ambush by some bad guys who attacked our cops.”
Nonetheless, Leo Valencia of El Toro, who had just left a nearby delicatessen, said he and his wife were caught in the cross fire because a Redondo Beach backup officer whom they passed en route to their car did nothing to warn them.
“He could have told us, ‘Hey, don’t go over there. There’s a sting going on,’ ” said Valencia. “But nobody said nothing.”
One of the suspected dealers--Orlando Moses, 21, of Torrance--was shot to death. A second--Donovan Norris, also 21 and from Torrance--was seriously wounded and remained in critical condition Friday at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
A third suspect--Christopher Clyde Slater, 20, of Los Angeles--was arrested Friday at his grandmother’s Hawthorne apartment and charged with murder, authorities said. Murder charges can be filed against anyone involved in a felony in which a slaying occurs. A fourth suspect fled, authorities said, and was still being sought Friday.
Stoneman said the Sheriff’s Department was helping Redondo Beach detectives conclude a three-week drug investigation. As one of the alleged dealers talked outside the restaurant with a plainclothes officer, he said, two others waited nearby in a Chevy Blazer.
Authorities said at least nine more plainclothes lawmen were scattered throughout the lot. Midway through the buy, a deputy allegedly spotted a fourth man with a gun--apparently a companion of the suspects--crouching between two cars.
Valencia was walking with his wife across the rain-slick parking lot with an armload of sausages and reached his car moments before the bullets began to fly. He noticed the men talking nearby.
“Then all of a sudden, I heard footsteps behind me, and there were these two sheriffs with bullet proof vests and rifles,” he said. “One . . . yelled, ‘Freeze, (expletive)!’ Before he could finish the sentence, he had let off a blast. Boom! I got my wife and myself into the car and slammed on the ignition.”