In the quiet neighborhood below the Hollywood sign, on the evening of April 5, the first street robbery in what would become a string of nine more and three home invasions occurred. A 43-year-old man robbed at gunpoint while he sat in his car at a stop sign on Cheremoya Avenue became the first victim.
Over the next several weeks, police and residents wondered whether all of the crimes were the work of one person or several. It’s still not clear, though there have been several arrests.
In the early days, people were told to be on the lookout for possibly three suspects, including a pair responsible for most of the street robberies. One of them was described as 25 to 30 years old, 6 feet tall and sporting a small patch of hair on his chin. His partner was described as 5-foot-6 with short hair. The home-invasion suspect was described as in his 30s or 40s, 5-foot-7, with pockmarked cheeks and possibly big lips.
Of course, it turned out many people fit the bill. On May 25, the LAPD believed they caught one suspect after a woman called 911 and said an African-American man followed her friend around the Mayfair Market on Franklin Avenue. The man was arrested at a Laundromat across the street. All of the victims picked his photo from a group of six mugs detectives showed them.
Five days later, with the man remaining in custody, his involvement became murky when another home invasion occurred. In that incident, a woman in her early 40s was sexually assaulted and threatened with a knife. On May 22, an elderly woman was robbed as she carried groceries into her home and was forced to drive her assailant to South L.A. On May 20, a man was roused from his bed and forced at knife point to go to an ATM machine and withdraw cash.
The original suspect was released on his own recognizance after spending nine days in jail. Craig Richman, L.A. County deputy district attorney in charge of the Career Criminal Division, says the street-robbery charges are pending further investigation.
On June 7, the LAPD got a break in the case. A watch that had been stolen a few weeks earlier showed up at a pawnshop in South L.A. Detectives allege the watch had been brought in by 42-year-old Bruce Thomas McKinney, arrested a few days earlier in connection with an attempted burglary of a frat house near USC. The LAPD believes he is responsible for the home-invasion robberies and possibly a few street robberies. He could not have committed all of them because he was in jail when the spree began and had only been released on April 22.
Earlier this month, police arrested two men in Van Nuys whom they suspect pulled off most of the street robberies in Hollywood, accosting victims at gunpoint as they walked near their cars.
Peter B. Ellis, president of the Oaks Homeowners Association, said crime is not a way of life in the neighborhood. “Maybe our number just came up. We live in a big city, crime is a fact of life.”