PALMS (CBSLA.com) — A series shootings in Palms left one person dead and four injured Thursday, prompting the LAPD to issue a citywide tactical alert while the search for the gunmen continues.
Perimeters were set up shortly after 3 p.m. in the areas surrounding Woodbine Street and Vinton Avenue, National Boulevard and Overland Avenue and at Clarington Avenue and Regent Street following multiple reports of shots fired within minutes of each other.
Officers flooded the area following an initial report of a shooting at Woodbine and Vinton, where a body was found. A second possible shooting victim was located near the intersection, at Woodbine Park, and transported to the hospital with unknown injuries.
Six blocks away, at Clarington, a third possible shooting victim was located and transported to the hospital, also with unknown injuries.
Within minutes, police were responding to a call of shots fired at the corner of National and Overland, near a 7-Eleven. LAPD Lt. John Jenal said two victims were transported from that scene. Two of the four wounded transported themselves to the hospital, police said.
Police were looking for two suspects Thursday evening but said some of the victims could be involved.
Of the four wounded, two were released from the hospital later Thursday but were detained by police for questioning. The remaining two were still in the hospital, one in critical and one in stable condition.
Witnesses told police a white SUV with bullet holes fled the scene at National. Police are also investigating a possible stabbing with an ice pick there, CBS2’s Dave Lopez reports.
Police have confirmed the three crime scenes are connected.
The tactical alert, meaning officers from other parts of the city would be available to help in the area if needed, remained in place until around 7:18 p.m.
A witness told Lopez he was near Woodbine Park when the first shots rang out and he saw a gunman flee on foot.
“I didn’t see him pull the gun out, I just heard the gunshots and got startled,” Zack Myers said.
“[The victims] were in the park. They were just hanging around, drinking … he just shot off randomly. I heard one of the victims that were shot, he had blood all over his head, he said, ‘Why is he shooting us? Why is he shooting us?’ That’s what he said.”
Ralph Rocha said he was at the 7-Eleven when he saw shots fired minutes later, and had to duck for cover after saving another man from flying bullets.
“I figured they were probably going to shoot him so I grabbed Eddie from the van and I pulled him out of the van and he got out of the van and onto the floor and I started to run away to try to find cover behind my van; and as I ran this way, I figured let me get behind this wall,” he said, pointing to a building behind him. “And the suspects drive off going southbound on Overland and I ran right into them. And they saw me, they made eye contact and they just kept driving.”
The window of a nearby Verizon store located in the strip mall was shattered during the shooting, sending employees hiding behind the counter.
“From my perspective, when the glass shattered, I thought that things were going to go down – that they might march into the store,” Verizon employee Daniel Magari said.
L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the area, said he was shocked by the day’s events.
“[These incidents occurred] in two very low crime areas, Woodbine Park, which is normally filled with little kids and families, and a little strip mall at National and Overland. I don’t recall this happening any time in the six years I’ve been on the council,” Koretz said.
Palms resident Lee Wallick said the violence was unusual for the neighborhood.
“Normally this is a very quiet area. The parks here, quiet. Motor Avenue is wonderful. People walk here at night. People feel safe here around Motor Avenue and in Palms,” Wallickh insisted.
Nearby Palms Elementary School and Palms Middle School were placed on lockdown as a result of the shootings. Those lockdowns were lifted around 4:17 p.m.
Police are reviewing security footage from the 7-Eleven and Verizon store as the search for the suspects continues.