22 04 2008

Suspect arrested in slayings of Compton man in wheelchair, friend

Another suspect is being sought in Sunday’s drive-by shooting. Authorities said the incident appeared to be gang-related.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Francisco Vara-Orta,

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

April 21, 2008

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-comptonshot22apr22,1,3410403.story

Police have arrested one suspect and are searching for another in connection with the fatal drive-by shooting on Sunday of two Compton men, including one in a wheelchair, authorities said today.

The victims were identified as Rigoberto Vega, 23, and David Gallegos, 32, who was in his wheelchair, investigators said.

Late Sunday, Andrew Lemus, 19, of Compton, turned himself in to investigators who had been serving search warrants in the 2000 block of 127th Street, said Lt. Dan Rosenberg, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Lemus was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Authorities did not disclose the arrest until this afternoon.

Investigators targeted Lemus’ neighborhood after recovering a Silver Ford Mustang there that witnesses said was used in the shooting, Rosenberg said. Rosenberg said both Lemus and the other suspect were apparent gang members, but did not disclose whether the victims had any gang ties.

Rosenberg said shooting a defenseless man in a wheelchair is just another example that Los Angeles County gangs are becoming more brazen and vicious in their attacks, noting other incidents of assaults on non-combatants in Compton and Monrovia.

“As far as the rules go, whether it’s shooting a guy in a wheelchair or a woman or children, those rules are changing,” Rosenberg said. “There’s more women getting shot and more children. It used to be if a guy was with his wife and children they would wait, but not anymore.”

Relatives of both shooting victims said the slain men were not gang members, just boyhood friends on their way to an IHOP restaurant to pick up a takeout order.

The two were heading down the sidewalk in the 600 block of North Alameda Street about 1:30 p.m. Sunday when a car stopped, some men got out and began shooting at them with a handgun or handguns, Rosenberg said.

Gallegos, 32, began using a wheelchair after he was injured in what relatives described as an accidental shooting six years ago.

He had attended Dominguez High School, then worked as a horse trainer in Sylmar, a job he loved, according to his sister, Sylvia Gomez, 17.

Gallegos is survived by a 9-year-old son, also named David Gallegos, who lives with relatives in Chicago.

Other relatives of Gallegos and Vega gathered this morning at the home that Gallegos shared with his parents a few blocks from the crime scene. They are trying to raise money to send both bodies back to Michoacan state in Mexico, where the men met as boys.

Relatives also met with a priest this morning from their nearby church, the Rev. Stan Bosch of Our Lady of Victory, and prayed.

Gomez said the shooting has had a “drastic” effect on her family, whose members are “trying to keep calm.”

“I don’t know who would do that. You just wonder why,” she said, adding that her siblings stayed away from gangs and always felt safe in their neighborhood. “We didn’t have nothing to worry about. We’re just calm people. We don’t like to mess with nobody.”

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to contact sheriff’s homicide investigators at (323) 890-5500.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

francisco.varaorta@latimes.com

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