Neighbors Shaken by Shooting : Crime: A sidewalk shrine has sprung up in slain man’s memory. His death leaves some among West Hollywood’s gays feeling victimized.


Yellow and pink flowers, wilted but still bright, hang from the pole. Candles, adorned with images of Christ and St. Martin, flicker on the pavement. A note informs the curious: “This is a memorial site. Please don’t take the flowers.”

At the corner of Norton and Sweetzer avenues in West Hollywood, a stop sign has been transformed into hallowed ground, an impromptu shrine to Mauricio Bassa, also known as Pj Blake, who was shot to death in an apparent robbery early Saturday while walking home from a bar with his lover.

Notes from friends and strangers mourn him. “I don’t know you but I miss you. You will not be forgotten.” “Smokes and coffee won’t be the same. I do love you and will always. I hope you are happy.” “No good person deserves this.”


Sketches of the two men wanted in Bassa’s killing flutter in the afternoon breeze, taped to the vivid red of the sign. A poster on a nearby light pole announces a community meeting “regarding the murder.”

One more senseless and unexpected death in a weekend full of them, Bassa’s killing on a tree-lined street has left his neighborhood shaken, his city feeling vulnerable. Some in West Hollywood’s large gay community feel particularly victimized, convinced that street thugs go after them because they perceive them as easy pickings.

More than 100 residents jammed the courtyard of an elegant old apartment building Wednesday evening to discuss the killing with local officials. In the crowd was Bassa’s lover, Gari Casella, with a black eye and a bandage on his forehead, reminders of a pistol-whipping by the killer. Bassa’s best friend was also there, full of rage over the shooting and the response of the Sheriff’s Department.

The residents were told that West Hollywood wasn’t insulated from urban violence. The Sheriff’s Department was adding patrols to the area. There was no evidence that the killing was a gay-bashing. That same night the assailants had attempted another street robbery and stolen a car. “These idiots were here to do nothing but rob,” said Capt. Clarence Chapman, commander of the Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood station.

Casella, 29, isn’t so sure. “We were gay, we were there and they decided to have fun and then, as an afterthought, they decided to take my money,” Casella said.

He and Bassa, 33, were walking home at 1:45 a.m. from the Gold Coast, a local bar where they had met a few months ago and to which they returned every Friday night. They were holding hands, crossing the street a block from their Sweetzer Avenue apartment building, when a man who had been following them hit Casella in the head with a gun and then shot Bassa in the head.


The assailant said nothing before accosting them and did not demand their wallets until after shooting Bassa, Casella said. Then the gunman ran to a waiting car and drove off with another man. “These guys had been stalking this neighborhood, perhaps because they thought we’re passive or would not fight back,” said Casella, who has filed a complaint asserting that sheriff’s deputies and paramedics were slow in arriving. Chapman says the complaint is being investigated.

A struggling actor who used the stage name Pj Blake, Bassa was one of 24 people slain in Los Angeles County last weekend, the bloodiest of the year. He was one of three killed in West Hollywood this year. Early Tuesday, another West Hollywood man, Yuri Filler, was fatally shot in an incident deputies said was unrelated to the Bassa killing and was neither a robbery nor a hate crime.

By Sunday, flowers started appearing on the corner where Bassa was gunned down. A neighbor scrubbed the blood off the sidewalk. As the days passed, more remembrances were left.

“It just kept getting bigger and bigger,” said Phil Tarley, who left a flower and a candle. “It was a way for people to express their sadness and anger. . . . That could have been me.”