Three young men armed with a baseball bat and a pistol beat and shot a motorist to death when he caught them stealing his vintage car at a service station in South-Central Los Angeles, police said Tuesday.
Ronald Jackson, 36, was pronounced dead at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center a few minutes after the Monday night attack at Imperial Highway and Main Street.
His car, a carefully maintained 1964 Chevrolet Impala that was well known in the neighborhood, was still missing Tuesday.
Police were seeking three men between the ages of 17 and 25. Officers said the location and method of the crime suggest that the killers are gang members.
Although similar in its viciousness, the attack apparently was not related to an incident last month in which a band of youths on bicycles and on foot went on a rampage in nearby Watts, fatally stabbing a woman, seriously wounding her husband and beating and robbing two other couples, police said.
Detective Roosevelt Joseph of the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau Homicide Division said Jackson, who lived nearby, drove into the self-service station shortly before 7 p.m.
Like many stations in the violence-prone area, no attendants are in the pump area. Cashiers barricade themselves behind locked doors and thick glass, and customers are required to pay through a secure, sliding-drawer device before pumping the gas.
Joseph said that when Jackson got out to pay, he left a male friend behind in the car. The detective said that while Jackson was at the cashier’s window, the three young men approached the car, ordered the friend out of the vehicle and climbed in, apparently intent on auto theft.
As the friend ran away, Jackson returned to his car and began arguing with the three young men, Joseph said.
“The suspects got out, hit him with the bat and shot him,” the detective said. “Then they got in the car and drove away.”
Joseph said that while the gray Chevrolet sedan--license number 2NYU861--is considerably older than most stolen vehicles, it is a model highly prized among some car collectors.
“It’s a real clean car,” the detective said. “Some people say it may have even been used in a couple of movies.”