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Homeowner, Transients’ Worlds Collide : Crime: Man’s back yard contained a hidden homeless camp. Violence erupted after a cleanup, leaving one dead and one seriously wounded.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raymond John Komoorian, the Winnetka man who fatally shot one transient and seriously wounded another when he caught them ransacking his bedroom early Sunday morning, had become an unwitting host to the homeless, Los Angeles police said Monday.

West Valley detectives investigating the shooting followed a trail of blood left by the wounded man and found a makeshift shelter in Komoorian’s back yard that had a sleeping bag and sofa cushions.

A transient had removed cinder blocks from a wall separating Komoorian’s yard from the Southern Pacific railroad tracks and set up housekeeping on a berm, said Detective Rick Swanston.

“There was a sofa, or sofa cushions at least, and some clothing in his own back yard that he didn’t even know about,” Swanston said. “They lived in a corner of his back yard.”

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Komoorian had no idea anyone was living there, Swanston said.

But for the transients who follow the Southern Pacific railroad tracks that slice across the western San Fernando Valley, his back yard had one thing going for it: location.

It was just steps away from a recycling center, where transients could cash in the bottles and cans they collect. It was shady and private; the thick growth of bushes hid them from sight. And there were plenty of oranges from Komoorian’s trees.

Over the weekend, the lifestyles of two men on the fringes of society and a suburban homeowner trying to hold onto what he has collided with violence.

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“I think what went on there was just characteristic of the tension and frustrations that are building across our city,” said Deputy Police Chief Mark A. Kroeker, who commands the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Bureau.

The story began to unfold Saturday afternoon, when a Neighborhood Watch group conducting a cleanup of a mile-long stretch of track abutting their community discovered and dismantled several cardboard box shelters hidden in bushes behind Komoorian’s yard.

But the group’s act of civic pride set in motion a sequence of events and misconceptions.

When the two transients returned to their hovel Sunday evening, they became upset that their few possessions had been disturbed. One was particularly upset about a missing passport, according to neighbors.

Suspecting they were stolen, the volunteers had handed the items over to police.

For reasons that may have no greater foundation than his proximity to the problem, the transients suspected Komoorian--even though he had nothing to do with the cleanup, police said.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the transients went looking for him, knocking on his door. Komoorian was not home.

Komoorian, 47, told police he became suspicious that something was amiss when he returned home from a friend’s birthday party about midnight.

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He retrieved a .45-caliber pistol from the kitchen and walked toward the bedroom and opened the door. He began firing when the two men lunged out at him, Swanston said. They were unarmed.

Swanston said the shooting seems to be justified because Komoorian felt physically threatened by the intruders, who had stuffed pillowcases with clothing and jewelry, and who lunged at him.

Swanston said police believe the papers and passport belonged to the dead transient, a 47-year-old native of Honduras, whose identity will not be released until relatives are notified. The wallet was reported stolen two years ago in a Canoga Park burglary.

Meanwhile, the second transient, who police believe is Ismael Rodriguez, 42, remained in serious condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center with bullet wounds to the chest.

Swanston said detectives expect to present the case to the district attorney, perhaps today. Rodriguez faces a murder charge under a section of the law that holds crime partners responsible for deaths that occur during the commission of felonies. Komoorian, an air-conditioning mechanic, is unlikely to face charges because the shooting appears to be self-defense.


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