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David Morales: Sawtelle Shooting Takes Life, Injures Another in West L.A.

Sotel gang graffiti in West L.A.
Sotel gang graffiti in West L.A.
Evan G

Updated at the bottom with the victim's name and more details. First posted at 11:46 p.m. Tuesday.

A normally sedate corner of the Westside known for its college-student-friendly apartments and street-dwelling undocumented immigrants looking for work was rocked by a homicide tonight.

Gunfire erupted about 7:25 p.m. on Pearl Street near Sawtelle Boulevard, and at least two people were hit, LAPD Officer Karen Rayner told the Weekly.

One victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Another ...

... was driven in a private vehicle to a hospital and was in unknown condition, she said.


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"Multiple victims" were at the scene, she said, although only these two could be officially accounted for.

It's not immediately clear if this was a drive-by. We do know the deceased was described as a Latino man in his early 20s, according to Rayner.

The area is claimed by the Sotel 13 gang, which makes itself most visible via tagging seen around Pico and Sawtelle boulevards, just a block north of the shooting.

The area is defined by the Exposition right-of-way, an abandoned train line that is under redevelopment as a renewed Metro light-rail line, and what many have described as the nation's busiest roadway exchange, the junction of the 405 and 10 freeways.

Actor Danny Trejo, in younger days, posing with Sotel and Venice 13 gangsters.
Actor Danny Trejo, in younger days, posing with Sotel and Venice 13 gangsters.
iblazetreez.tumblr.com

For decades the Sotel gang's epicenter has been around Stoner Recreation Center, a city park north of Olympic Boulevard and east of Barrington Avenue.

But in more recent years it has spread, at least via graffiti, bravely to the south and east, all the way to Venice Boulevard and Overland Avenue in Palms (where some 18th Street gang members hold sway).


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The set has been known to welcome outsiders with gunfire. A 2002 triple homicide on Wilshire Boulevard, on the edge of Brentwood, but within Sotel turf, rocked the Westside.

Police later told us that Sawtelle gangsters were suspected, and that the victims [added] of the '02 shooting were ex-members of one of the nation's largest gangs, 18th Street.

In this case, police aren't saying "gang-related" yet, but Rayner said "it's possible."

[Updated at 11:22 a.m. Wednesday]: The LAPD released a statement this morning in which the victim is ID'd as David Morales, 18. The wounded male was a 17-year-old who, because of his age, was not identified. That victim was treated and released at a hospital, the department said.

According to its statement:

On Tuesday, January 3, 2012, just before 7:30 p.m., 18-year-old David Morales and his 17- year-old companion were walking northbound on Sawtelle Boulevard at Pearl Street. Two suspects described as male Hispanics, between 16 and 20 years old fired multiple gunshots and left the area heading westbound on Pearl Street.

Anyone with info on the attack was asked to call detectives at 213-382-9470.

[Added]: We took out a reference to a David Morales found on Facebook after a reader argued that it was not the victim. She pointed to a different Morales who also indicated that he attended University High, the public school for the area.

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LAPD homicide Det. Dave Vinton told the Weekly "it's really too early to tell" if the shooting was a part of a Sotel-vs.-Santa Monica rivalry but he said he was looking into the any possible Facebook connections.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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