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Man held in New Year’s party killing

Los Angeles police have arrested a man in the shooting death of a onetime local basketball star at a heavily promoted New Year’s Eve party at a rented Coldwater Canyon mansion.

Gilbert Llewelyn McDonald, 34, was booked on suspicion of murder late Friday night in the death of Felix L. Lang Jr., 28. The onetime Los Angeles Valley College basketball star’s body was found slumped on a curb across the street from the trashed four-story stucco home in the 3900 block of Avenida del Sol on New Year’s Day.

The shooting occurred near Harvard-Westlake School and St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and is the latest incident involving so-called party houses, sprawling hillside mansions that host illegal, professionally catered and paid events.

According to authorities, Lang was killed as a raucous New Year’s Eve party was winding down about 4 a.m. Lang reportedly got into an argument over a taco plate with McDonald, who was acting as a self-appointed bouncer, police said. Lang, according to authorities, did not pay for the food, and McDonald followed him outside, where the confrontation turned physical.

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Shortly after the men began fighting the suspect produced a handgun, and as the two struggled, the weapon discharged. No one was apparently hit by that round.

After some moments, the suspect pointed the handgun at the victim and fired several rounds at close range. It was this decision to fire that prompted police to book McDonald on suspicion of murder. It did not appear to be a case of self-defense, they said.

“He had the option to stop before he shot him,” said Lt. Alan Hamilton.

Afterward, McDonald was admitted to a local hospital for treatment of a broken femur. Detectives interviewed him at the hospital Friday and arrested him there. He was being held on $1 million bail.

Police described McDonald as a friend of a female party promoter who organized the New Year’s bash at the hillside estate on a winding street of three- and four-story houses with canyon and ridge-top views. The property, police said, is in foreclosure.

The home had been rented by three men, one of whom was out of town.

Police described the event as a “pay-at-the-door, illegal party,” a type that has become increasingly popular during the real estate foreclosure crisis. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing these in foreclosed homes,” Hamilton said of the parties. “You get what you get in that type of situation.”

Fliers for the party invited guests to a “Winter Wonderland,” according to several area residents, who declined to be identified. The fliers also requested that partygoers “dress to impress” and advertised appetizers and an open bar. Music was to be provided by “DJ Swivll.”

The notices asked neighbors to call the home if the party grew too loud, although several neighbors said the event was not particularly noisy.

By the time paramedics arrived to attend to the shooting victim, everyone at the home had fled. Lang was pronounced dead at the scene. A stream of blood trickled down the street several feet, pooling in a small spot just uphill from the church. Police said the home was “trashed” during the party.

Lang, who was nicknamed “Flex,” was a star guard at Los Angeles Valley College and earned all-league honors before going to play at Portland State University.

“His New’s Year resolution was to get in shape and get back into playing in Europe,” said Sam Fuston, owner of Midnight Records and a friend of Lang. “I saw him last on New Year’s Eve about 7:30 [p.m.]. We were all talking about New Year’s resolutions.”

Fuston, a local hip-hop guru, said Lang, a former standout at Hamilton High School, was working with young people at a Baldwin Hills recreation center and at a passport company. He was never the type to get into trouble, Fuston said.

“Flex isn’t like that. I’ve know Flex for six years. I couldn’t believe it when I heard,” Fuston said. “He was a ladies’ man and real laid-back guy. He never argued with anyone.”

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richard.winton@latimes.com


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