KING CASE AFTERMATH: A CITY IN CRISIS : Violence in Las Vegas Claims 2 Lives : Riots: Guard called in to help quell shooting and burning in low-income neighborhood west of the Strip. Curfew may be imposed in district.


National Guard units were called in Friday to help police stop a rampage of shooting and burning in a low-income neighborhood that left at least two people dead.

Police Lt. Bob Chinn said 450 Guard troops were standing by to aid police in sealing off a predominantly black and Latino district known as the Westside if riots that ravaged the neighborhood Thursday resumed.

The city also was set to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the district, located only a few miles from the glitzy casinos and hotels on the city's tourist Strip. Teams of police were stopping suspicious vehicles and were prepared to halt access to the area if trouble occurred.

But the streets appeared to be calm on Friday night, with only about a dozen arrests for weapons violations and disturbing the peace.

Some black activists had complained bitterly about the prospect of the curfew, but Chinn said the plans "had nothing to do with race whatsoever."

"The whole reason for the (possible) perimeter and the curfew is that this is where the problem occurred," he said.

A youth was found dead early Friday in the charred rubble of a grocery store in a Westside shopping center that firefighters had allowed to burn rather than brave gunfire to save. Residents near the shopping center identified the victim as a 12-year-old boy.

A woman also was killed by gunfire in a shooting that Chinn described only as "related" to the rioting. He said police have not returned any gunfire.

Since the disturbance began early Thursday evening, a police officer was shot in the arm, four police cars came under gunfire, and fires were set in 16 structures and 30 to 40 dumpsters and vehicles, police said.

John Edmond, 43, the black owner of the strip mall where the boy died, said the initial target of the rioters' wrath Thursday was a Korean operator of a grocery store in the shopping center.

"They wanted to air their frustration against anyone who wasn't black," said Edmond, his tone filled with sad irony.

The businessman said he stood outside as Chin Kim's store was looted, shouting at the vandals.

"I said, 'Hey man, what's the matter with you?' They said, 'We're going to get all we can and loot Chin's store.' "

Edmond said police and firefighters left as soon as gunfire erupted. He and others picked up the hoses that the frightened firemen had dropped before fleeing but failed to stop the fire before it consumed a third of the mall.

"I was never really afraid for my life," said the soft-spoken businessman. "Maybe when you see a . . . dream go up in your face, you don't think about fear."

He said he built the center after a previous mall at the site was burned during riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the grocery store, an NAACP office, a check-cashing outlet, a treatment center for pregnant women and mothers addicted to drugs or alcohol, a post office and a pharmacy in the center burned down.

Also destroyed by separate arson fires were nearby city offices, a gas station, two police substations, and a state parole and probation office located in a housing project.

"It's really such a shame because those folks that need those services the most are losing them," Chinn said. "We were really on the verge of getting some good businesses down there, and I'm afraid this is going to push us back."

Many Westside residents said they were sickened by the violence.

"Black people are mad and tired (as a result of the Rodney King verdict) and I guess they are going to prove their point," said Tina Jackson, 22, a black Westside resident. "But little do they know that this is going to make it get worse."

The worst of the violence occurred between dusk Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday. Police reported 37 arrests, only one after dawn.

"It's been quiet today, but it was quiet yesterday until dark so we are going to have to see what happens," Chinn said.

He said officers and firefighters were deciding on a case-by-case basis whether to respond to reports of gunfire and arson blazes. When they did respond, firefighters were being escorted by police.

He said most of the rioting was caused by 200 to 300 young adults and teen-agers.

"The trouble is they see (Los Angeles' riots) on CNN and get fired up and then at night under the cover of darkness go out and do their deeds," Chin said.

In North Las Vegas, a separate incorporated community, police said a 34-year-old black woman died in a drive-by shooting, but there was no indication that it was related to anger over the King verdict.

North Las Vegas police made only one arrest for vandalism.

Despite the troubles, the Lakers playoff game that was to be held at the Forum in Inglewood Friday night was rescheduled for Sunday at the Thomas and Mack Center on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus, located across town from the scene of riots.

Elsewhere in the state, Reno police were maintaining a high profile in hopes of preventing the spread of violence to their city.

Police said they would be especially vigilant during a march scheduled for today to protest the King verdict and the acquittal of a Reno police officer accused of striking a Latino man he was arresting at a casino.

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