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After shooting in Old Pasadena, it’s business as usual on the main drag

Times Staff Writer

Hostess Camyle Meier was saying good night to a diner at Old Pasadena eatery Mi Piace on Wednesday when she heard a boom.

She quickly realized the noises from outside were gunshots. Frozen, she watched a man, wounded in the back, grab his side and crumple to the Colorado Boulevard pavement. Dozens of holiday revelers in the popular Italian restaurant “screamed and ducked,” she said. A doctor eating dinner and a server rushed outside to help the victim.

Then, after a few moments of gawking out of the restaurant windows, Meier, 23, said, “everyone just went back to eating like it was no big deal.”

The shooting, considered highly unusual for the upscale shopping district, left Meier and others stunned. But for the most part, Old Pasadena was taking the violence in stride Thursday.

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Shoppers were back out in force along Colorado Boulevard, with many saying they either hadn’t heard about the shooting or didn’t consider it a major safety issue.

“It’s one time out of like a million,” said Brittany Brown, 18, of Pasadena, as she shopped with friends.

The incident comes just days before Pasadena’s biggest tourist draw and annual moment in the spotlight -- the Rose Parade, which is scheduled to roll right over the shooting site on New Year’s Day.

And city officials were working to reassure the public Thursday that Old Pasadena -- and the parade -- are open for business and safe.

Local officials downplayed the violence, describing it as isolated. The half million visitors expected to watch the parade in Pasadena should have “no reason for concern,” said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. “I think this was a [one-of-a-kind] situation that wasn’t indigenous to Old Pasadena in any way.”

Authorities described the shooting as a botched drug deal over marijuana. The alleged assailant, Mark Cole, 18, of Claremont, is said to have fired several shots in the heart of the popular shopping and entertainment district as bystanders ran for cover.

An accomplice is being sought. The victim, who was hospitalized Wednesday in stable condition, had apparently driven to the area from Altadena with the shooter, the second suspect and another person, fearing for his safety and in search of a crowded place to disappear, said Pasadena Police Lt. Randell Taylor.

Parade security is to proceed as planned, coordinated by Pasadena police and involving nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers from various agencies to patrol the massive crowds. The “unique, bizarre” incident “doesn’t alter anything that we’re doing,” said Pasadena Police Lt. John Dewar.

“We prepare year round for the parade and the game, and we’re very confident that all will be good,” said Bill Flinn, chief operating officer of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, a nonprofit that stages the parade and the Rose Bowl football game.

Although parts of the city are grappling with a rise in gang-related killings and increases in burglaries, residents consider Old Pasadena fairly safe, attracting crowds of couples and families and manned by a visible police and security presence.

“I’m surprised that there was actually a shooting in Pasadena,” said Jordan Killebrew, 19, home on winter break from UC Santa Barbara and out Thursday shopping for clothes. “I think of it as a safe haven -- a nice place everybody goes to go shopping and have a good time.”

The shooting occurred in front of the high-end bath and skin-product store Lather.

On Thursday, a broken display window was boarded up and employees had trashed sample scrubs and lotions, in case they had picked up shards of glass.

Although police had searched among soy candles and essential oils for the stray bullet the night before, by Thursday the store’s holiday display was dismantled, and nearly all the debris had been swept away.

“With Pasadena New Year’s festivities and the parade, we want to be looking our best,” said Stephanie Kermer, 31, operations manager for the company’s nearby corporate office.

One of the four bullets fired flew across the crowded street at waist level and shattered a window at the store next to Mi Piace, which was jammed with diners.

“If it was 10 feet away, it might have hit one of my customers,” said Ed Mamigonian, a manager at Mi Piace. “It’s scary. Life is a matter of inches.”

Others said the shooting was something of a reality check.

“This part of Pasadena is so protected, so safe,” said Cathy Van Wye, another manager at Mi Piace. “The scariness about something like that is the randomness, that the gunshots could hit people.”

But Thursday breakfast traffic was busier than normal at the Italian eatery, Van Wye said, and the place was nearly full at lunchtime. Families pushing strollers and teens toting shopping bags filled Colorado Boulevard’s sidewalks Thursday afternoon.

Van Wye expected “business as usual” in spite of the shooting. Violence, she said, “can happen anywhere.”

But shootings can cause lasting damage to a shopping district. (The 1988 slaying of a graphic artist caught in gang crossfire in Westwood Village is often cited as a factor in that neighborhood’s decline.)

At least one Old Pasadena resident said the Wednesday night violence would change her routine. Joyce Sakamoto, who lives above a Pottery Barn near the shooting scene, was rattled.

“I was shocked because it was so close,” she said, adding that she won’t go out alone at night anymore.

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susannah.rosenblatt@ latimes.com

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Staff writer Jason Felch contributed to this report.


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