A shocking murder in the heart of the Melrose shopping district this week has detectives stumped. Investigators Wednesday identified the victim as 27-year-old Damien Scott Jr., says Lt. Kelly Yagerlener of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
The attack on Sierra Bonita Avenue just south of Melrose Avenue took place in such a busy, well-trafficked area that a Los Angeles Police Department officer working undercover nearby heard shots fired and rushed to the victim, cops said.
The shooting was reported at 5:45 p.m. Monday. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded and declared the victim, a man in his 20s, dead at the scene, according to an LAPD statement.
The undercover officer was on "routine duty" and was not surveilling the victim, says Los Angeles police Lt. John Radtke, who's investigating the case. Authorities believe there were multiple witnesses and are asking anyone who saw the attack to reach out. "The suspect was in close proximity to the officer but he didn't see him," the detective said.
Original police crime broadcasts of the attack described a suspect who fled in a black Range Rover. However, the detective says that's not entirely clear. "We haven't verified it," he says. "There's a ton of Range Rovers in that area, so a black SUV is the best description we have."
The suspect, described by witnesses as a man in his mid-20s wearing a dark jacket, "was seen driving away ... east through the alley just south of Melrose Avenue," according to the department's statement.
Police said the violence might have been gang-related as a result of the victim's possible affiliation with a South L.A. clique. The area is not gang turf, and detectives aren't sure what he was doing at the time of the shooting, Radtke said.
"We don't know the motive," he says. "We don't know what he was doing over there. There's no good explanation."
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A worker at a nearby boutique who did not want to be identified said the murder was "upsetting."
"It's a very nice neighborhood, so it's very surprising for us," she said.
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call detectives at 213-382-9470.