An argument over a pool game in an Echo Park bar early Monday morning culminated in gunfire that claimed the life of an 18-year-old man who, according to his sister, had hoped to return to Mexico to buy a home after making the money to fulfill his dream in America.
Los Angeles police said the dead man’s two brothers and the bar manager were wounded in the 1:30 a.m. shooting in the Suku Suku Club. A fourth man and a woman were also believed to have been wounded in the incident, but they left the scene before officers arrived.
The dead man was identified by his sister as Pablo Cruz Lemos. His brothers, David Castillo Lemos, 30, and Luis Lemos, 32, were hospitalized in critical but stable condition, police said.
Lemos’ sister, Irma Castillo Lemos, said she and her brothers live in an apartment complex near the bar on Echo Park Boulevard.
“My parents (in Mexico) do not know about Pablo’s death,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. We’re trying to make arrangements to return the body to Mexico.”
The three brothers apparently got into an argument and a brief fight over a pool game with two Latino men in their early 20s, Detective John Munguia said Monday. The two men left the bar and returned three hours later. One was armed with a semiautomatic handgun, Munguia said. The detective said the gunman was a regular patron of the bar.
There was a gang-related fatal shooting at the bar in December, an incident unrelated to Monday’s slaying, police said.
“The whole area is known for violence,” said a friend of the bar manager. “But since the new owners took over, they’ve try to keep it trouble-free. But it’s the nature of the business. You’re going to have trouble. It’s just a rough area.”
The manager, Mateo Zambrano, who is in his late 50s, was shot in the hand, resulting in a broken thumb. He was expected to be released from a hospital today, said his son, Jose Zambrano.
Mateo Zambrano, who has managed the bar for two years, tried to keep the gunman from entering, his son said.
“My father said: ‘I don’t want no problems.’ But one of the (Lemos brothers) said: ‘If you’re a man, go ahead and shoot,’ ” the younger Zambrano said.
The gunman and his companion are believed to be Echo Park residents, police said. They have not been arrested, investigators said.
The siblings, all of whom work at a clothing factory in the Los Angeles area, had come to the United States to find a better life, make some money and perhaps return to Mexico one day, said Irma Lemos, 26.
The two surviving Lemos brothers are married and have children; Pablo Lemos was single, his sister said as neighbors tried to comfort her.
“It was not supposed to happen this way,” said Irma Lemos, who has two small children living in Mexico with her parents.
“Pablo was a calm person,” she said. “He never got into fights. He worked hard. He liked to listen to music and was saving money to buy a home someday in Mexico.”