1 dead, 4 injured in Palms shootings

LAPD officers walk by a body in front of Woodbine Park in the Palms area of Los Angeles. Two shootings left one person dead and at least three others wounded.

LAPD officers walk by a body in front of Woodbine Park in the Palms area of Los Angeles. Two shootings left one person dead and at least three others wounded.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

One person was killed and four others injured Thursday in a series of midafternoon shootings in a quiet Westside neighborhood, briefly prompting a citywide tactical alert, police said.

Gunfire first erupted in the Palms neighborhood about 3 p.m. in the outskirts of Woodbine Park, at Vinton Avenue and Woodbine Street. There, police found two people wounded, said Lt. John Jenal of the Los Angeles Police Department.

One of the two was pronounced dead at the scene, Jenal said.

Moments later, a third person was critically injured in a shooting about one block from the park, said Officer Jack Richter.


About a half-mile from the park and a few minutes later, another shooting occurred outside a 7-Eleven near Overland Avenue and National Boulevard, Jenal said.

Rafael Rocha, who saw the ambush unfold, said a group of men fired from across the shopping center parking lot at two men leaving the convenience store.

“There was no argument, no fighting. They didn’t say anything to each other; they just started shooting,” Rocha, 44, said. “These guys did not care about human life at all.”

The two men returned fire, and bullets tore through an adjacent nail salon and a Verizon store as well as a parked Honda Civic, sending glass flying, Rocha said. People in the parking lot and nearby stores ducked or ran for cover during the exchange, which was partly captured by a 7-Eleven surveillance camera.

The four wounded people were taken to a hospital, some in private vehicles, police said. One of the men outside the 7-Eleven appeared to have been shot in the stomach, Rocha said.

As of late Thursday, police were canvassing the park and neighborhoods for witnesses. No one had been detained in connection with the incidents, and it was unclear how many suspects police were searching for.

One possible suspect was described by police as a man driving a light-colored SUV. Rocha said the shooters near the 7-Eleven fled in what appeared to be an old Honda Civic.

“We are still trying to figure out if there is any connection between the shootings,” Jenal said.

The LAPD went on a citywide tactical alert in response to the shootings but later downgraded the alert to cover only the West Bureau, which includes Palms. Two schools — Palms Middle School and Palms Elementary — were briefly locked down as a precaution, L.A. school police said.

The violence stunned a community whose recently refurbished Woodbine Park — surrounded by homes and apartment buildings — is usually bustling with families and pickup basketball games, neighbors said.

“I’ve never seen this kind of crime,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, surveying the dog walkers and others strolling by in the late afternoon. “I hope it doesn’t scare families away from the park. It’s as safe as it could be.”

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.