Slaying Suspect Arrested in Fresno

Times Staff Writer

A reputed Armenian gang member suspected of killing a rival in a dispute over a murder contract has been arrested in Fresno, Los Angeles police detectives said Tuesday.

Volodia Akopian, 44, was booked on suspicion of murder in connection with the Sept. 24 fatal shooting of Gore Avetisyan and the wounding of Hovik Ambartsumyan at a Hollywood auto repair business. He was held Tuesday at Parker Center jail in lieu of $1-million bail.

"It was a personal issue that escalated into a physical altercation," said LAPD Capt. Al Michelena. "The dispute was over part of the crime business."

LAPD Det. Ron Ito said the shooting in midafternoon was so "bold" that bystanders thought it was part of a movie being filmed.

Police were still looking for at least three other men in connection with the crime.

Two groups of men had gathered at the auto shop in the 5000 block of Hollywood Boulevard to discuss the murder contract when a struggle broke out and Akopian and his associates pulled handguns and began firing, Ito said.

"We're not sure at this point whether the victims were involved in that [murder contract]," Ito said. "They might have been specifically sought out because of their gang affiliation."

Ito said Armenian gang members typically operate in smaller, loosely affiliated groups, and are known for white-collar crimes such as medical insurance fraud and identity theft.

Police surveillance coupled with witnesses led police to Akopian's home in Fresno on Monday. Officers followed him as he and his wife drove on a city street, where he was arrested without incident. Detectives said they found several handguns in the car.

Akopian's arraignment is scheduled for Thursday in a Los Angeles courtroom.

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