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Driver shot to death on 110 offramp

Times Staff Writer

A female motorist was fatally shot early Thursday on a Harbor Freeway offramp in South Los Angeles, police said.

The attack occurred as Samantha Padilla, 19, of Los Angeles was getting off the northbound Harbor (110) Freeway at West Slauson Avenue shortly after midnight, police said.

A brown 1990 or 1991 Ford Bronco pulled up next to Padilla’s car at a stop light after she had gotten off the freeway, and someone inside opened fire, said Richard French, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

At 12:15 a.m., officers responded to a radio call in the area of Slauson Avenue and the Harbor Freeway, police said. Upon arrival, they discovered Padilla shot in her car.

She had been struck several times.

Padilla was taken to California Hospital downtown, where she died.

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No arrests had been made, said LAPD Officer Kate Lopez.

Investigators were looking into several possible scenarios for the shooting, including gang activity and road rage, and whether Padilla knew the shooter, French said.

Police confirmed that Padilla worked at Los Angeles International Airport, but would not specify which company or what her job was.

California Highway Patrol officers closed the offramp for about four hours, reopening it at 4:17 a.m., said Officer Francisco Villalobos, a CHP spokesman.

Lopez said there was no evidence that Thursday’s freeway shooting was part of a trend, adding that the LAPD has investigated only three such incidents in the last few months.

This year, authorities already have responded to shootings on the 10, 91, 101, 110, 605 and 710 freeways -- all believed to be unrelated.

Asked in an interview on KTLA-TV Channel 5 whether he believed some of the freeway shootings could be gang initiations, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton noted that only a tiny percentage of homicides each year take place on highways.

“Millions of people every day travel the freeways of Los Angeles, and about 1% of our murders every year happen on the freeways,” Bratton said.

“You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting shot on the freeway,” he said. “Freeways are still safer than other areas.”

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francisco.varaorta @latimes.com


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