Innocent Bystander Is Shot, Badly Wounded in Westwood Restaurant
Fouad Salik was sharing a late meal with friends at the Habibi Cafe on a busy Westwood Village street when a shot blasted through the window, scattering Christmas revelers. Salik, known by some friends as Fred, was struck in the head and crumpled to the floor of the cafe, whose name means “my love” in Arabic.
Tuesday, as Salik remained in grave condition at UCLA Medical Center, police and his bereft brother and close friends pleaded with dozens of diners and others who were on Broxton Avenue about 1:30 a.m. Sunday to call detectives -- in case they saw something that might lead to the gunman, who police say was not aiming at Salik.
“He was just sitting enjoying dinner with friends ... at a crowded place ... and was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Det. Ron Phillips of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Homicide Division, which urged anyone at the cafe near UCLA at the time of the shooting to call (310) 444-1519.
“My brother ... was peaceful,” a tearful Khalib Salik said in a brief comment to reporters Tuesday outside the LAPD’s West Division station.
He called his brother, owner of a Hollywood travel agency, “young” and “successful.” He added, “I’m asking the public please, if you see this killer,” call the police.
Officers who arrived at the cafe shortly after the shooting found Salik, 36, lying on the floor and many of the patrons -- potential eyewitnesses -- gone, Phillips said.
He estimated that perhaps 50 to 70 diners and others were at or outside the restaurant.
“We have some very good, workable leads,” Phillips said, declining to elaborate. “We need eyeball witnesses” now to “help us.”
Salik, who was to be married this spring in Morocco, had been sitting in the center of the restaurant at 923 Broxton Ave. near Le Conte Avenue, facing toward the street, when he was shot after an unrelated fight, Phillips said.
Three men about 19 to 20 years old got into a heated argument with three other men of about the same age, and it escalated into “pushing and shoving,” Phillips said. A waitress at the Habibi Cafe on Tuesday said the dispute occurred in the cafe’s adjoining but separate lounge.
Security guards broke up the fight and kicked out the combatants, Phillips said. He said he did not know the nature of the dispute.
After at least three combatants were tossed out, Phillips said, one climbed into the passenger side of a car and fired a gun, apparently aiming at one of the men he had tangled with but instead wounding Salik. The suspects fled and have not been identified.
According to his brother and two close friends, Salik is the youngest of six children.
He was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and attended university in London; much of his family resides in one of those two places, and his mother in Morocco does not yet know he was shot, said Rachib Elhimri, who accompanied Salik’s brother to the police station.
Elhimri, 31, said he and Salik met shortly after each arrived in the Los Angeles area in 1994. Salik “was here for one reason, to work hard,” Elhimri said, and Salik did.
“He was very successful.... He was a sweetheart. He bought his mom a house” in Morocco. Mother and son are especially close, Elhimri said.
Word of Salik’s shooting spread swiftly among friends such as Abraham Mazen, 25, a tow-truck driver and L.A. City College student who went to the Habibi Cafe on Tuesday afternoon to see what more he could learn after failing to get into the hospital to visit Salik.
“It’s a small community here,” he said.
Salik’s travel agency, he said, is at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
Salik had gone with two other friends to Habibi, where he enjoyed the Middle Eastern food and atmosphere, Mazen said.
Elhimri had arrived at the cafe about 15 minutes after the shooting and said Salik’s friends were in shock. On Tuesday, Elhimri displayed on his cellphone pictures of Salik, including ones showing his friend comatose in his hospital bed. He took the pictures, he said, to show his own mother, who is fond of Salik, and “to have him close; I want something of him with me.”
He called Salik a “a funny guy” whose friends are deeply fond of him.
“A party without him is not the same,” Elhimri said.