Is someone targeting random people on the Westside for murder?
It's unlikely. But authorities say a Palms shooting victim, the sixth in less than a week in the area, appeared to be a completely random and innocent target.
The deceased was identified by the L.A. County Department of Coroner as 33-year-old Christopher John Paul. Though he sustained a gunshot wound, the official cause of death wasn't yet determined, a coroner's official said.
Paul Koretz, who represents the area on the Los Angeles City Council, told us the victim was heading to his nearby home after purchasing a cup of coffee when he was shot from behind.
He described the victim as a "nice," quiet church-goer from Michigan.
Paul still had money on his person when authorities found him about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 3300 block of Mentone Avenue, Koretz said. Cops and city paramedics responded to a call of shots fired when they discovered the victim down, authorities said.
"I think this is pretty clear this was a random person just coming back from getting a cup of coffee," the councilman said. "The family is devastated, the community is devastated, and we have no leads."
If the investigative drought continues next week, Koretz said it was likely he'd propose on Tuesday that the city back a $50,000 reward for information leading to a solid suspect.
Koretz spoke to us from Woodbine Park, the site of a Neighborhood Watch meeting organized in the wake of the unusual string of shootings in the Westside community.
The park was also the place where the first outbreak of violence happened April 16.
Three men were hit by gunfire, one fatally. Minutes later another shooting injured two people at a strip mall near Overland Avenue and National Boulevard.
James Pickens, 37, was charged this week with suspicion of murder in connection with the park violence. The case includes gang and gun allegations. He pleaded not guilty but remained behind bars in lieu of $1 million bail.
Two other suspects were taken into custody, police announced last night. One is 37-year-old Antwaun Morrison, who was arrested on suspicion of murder. A third was actually one of the people who was shot, the LAPD indicated.
He was still in a hospital but has an arrest warrant waiting for him when he recovers, cops said.
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A detective told reporters at the park today that shots rang out following a physical altercation.
Both of those Thursday shootings appear to be gang-related, authorities said. But the root of Wednesday's homicide was not so clear.
Police officials told us patrols in the area have been increased.