Acting on a tip, police have arrested two men in the beating of a Pasadena evangelist who was trying to stop looting in Hollywood during the riots that followed the verdicts in the Rodney G. King case.
Leonard Sosa, 23, and Fidel Ortiz, 20, both of Los Angeles, were each charged Wednesday with one count of attempted murder in the assault on Wallace Tope, Deputy Dist. Atty. Norman Shapiro said.
Tope, 52, has been in a coma at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center since the April 30 beating. Hospital officials say he is not expected to live.
The attack occurred on the second night of rioting that erupted after four Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of the black Altadena motorist were acquitted of all but one charge.
A devout Christian who had been upset by television images of the riots, Tope went alone to the parking lot of a Sav-On at Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard and entered a crowd of more than a 100 looters and observers.
Tope's intent, friends said, was to stop the looters and spread the word of God.
His friends said they tried to dissuade Tope because the situation was too dangerous. But the preacher, saying God would protect him, was determined.
For a few minutes, Tope, who is not affiliated with any church, stood in the crowd and urged the people to see the error of their ways and accept Jesus Christ into their hearts.
But as he was speaking, two men attacked him. Tope tried to flee, but he fell. As he lay helpless, the assailants kicked him repeatedly in the head for several minutes, police said.
Tope was rescued by the crew of a passing ambulance.
Two weeks ago, police asked for public help in identifying the attackers. Officers subsequently received a tip that Sosa and Ortiz were bragging about the crime, said the preacher's younger brother, Dennis, an assistant principal at Mojave High School.
Dennis Tope said the preacher's family is relieved that arrests have been made in the assault, which he called a "pure and simple atrocity."
"They didn't have to kick him over and over again for three or four minutes," Tope said. "That's just a savage act. They need to be punished."
Tope also said he and his parents are still hoping his brother will emerge from the coma, despite the doctors' diagnosis.
"A miracle may happen," he said. "We have to wait and see."