Police Unsure of Gang Link in Shooting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles police said Thursday that it was unclear whether a 24-year-old man shot six times at a McDonald's in Pacoima on Wednesday was mistaken for a gang member or is one himself.

"We haven't been able to come up with a motive," Lt. Richard Meraz said. "We can't determine if there is direct gang involvement."

Police said they are stumped because they are unable to talk to the victim--Charles Lewin of Panorama City, who was heavily sedated at Holy Cross Medical Center under treatment for his wounds. Friends of the victim had earlier identified him to police and the hospital as Jerry Long, 23, of Sun Valley. It was not clear why.

A 9-year-old girl bystander, Erika Flores, was wounded in the foot by a stray bullet. She was released from Holy Cross on Thursday after surgery, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Although officers in the Foothill Division gang unit said Lewin may turn out to be a gang member, Meraz said there is no clear proof.

Police said the gunman definitely was a gang member because he shouted a gang slogan after shooting Lewin.

"A gang slogan was shouted. But aside from a slogan, we don't have a firm gang connection," Meraz said.

The incident began about 4 p.m. Wednesday when a young man walked into the McDonald's at 13700 Van Nuys Blvd., pulled out a pistol and began shooting at Lewin, witnesses and police said.

Several witnesses said the gunman then shouted "Viva Pacoima!" and fled to a waiting car, which sped off. The car was believed to be a 1978 or '79 four-door metallic blue Cadillac, Meraz said.

The gunman stood about five feet behind Lewin, who was in line to order food, when he sprayed about 10 shots. Meraz jumped over the restaurant counter and tried to hide from the gunman, witnesses said.

Erika was hit by a bullet as she walked to a counter to get ketchup for her hamburger, said her mother, Maria Flores.

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