LOS ANGELES (AP) — An early morning argument at a Los Angeles restaurant operating out of a converted home apparently triggered gunfire that left three people dead and 12 wounded, two gravely, authorities said Saturday.
The restaurant owner told The Los Angeles Times he runs a Jamaican catering business out of the house and was hosting a birthday celebration when the shooting broke out. A man who had gone to the house to ask that a car be moved from his brother’s driveway told the newspaper there were more than 100 people in the house and yard and that a DJ was playing music.
Shortly after they left, Paul Elen said he heard 15 to 20 shots.
“My brother thought it was fireworks,” Elen said. “I said, ‘No, ain’t no smoke in there. Them ain’t fireworks, them gunshots.'”
Police who arrived at the scene in a working class neighborhood dotted by tall palm trees found shell casings and blood throughout the restaurant west of downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the shooting the latest example of senseless gun violence that has reached epidemic proportions in the country.
“We cannot tolerate these tragedies multiplying in communities across America,” Garcetti said in a statement.
Los Angeles Police Department Officer Mike Lopez said investigators were seeking a suspect he described as a black male, possibly accompanied by a woman.
Police earlier questioned two possible suspects, but Lopez said later no one was in custody.
Three people died at the scene, and 12 others were transported to local hospitals.
Lopez said two of the victims were in grave condition. Two of the wounded were released and the others remain hospitalized with wounds are not considered life-threatening.
Police did not disclose the names or ages of the victims.
Neighbor Sheryl Cobb said she was awakened by screaming and gunfire, but never left her home for fear of getting caught in a crossfire.
“Bullets don’t have names on them,” she said.
According to a preliminary investigation, a party was underway in the restaurant at 12:30 a.m. Saturday when an argument started.
A man and woman left, then returned, and the restaurant erupted in gunfire.
The shooting occurred in a residential area of modest homes. Investigators were snapping photographs and scouring the ground in an area around the site.
“There was some type of party there,” Lopez said. After the couple left the restaurant and returned “that’s when the shooting occurred.”
LAPD Sgt. Frank Preciado told the Times that the restaurant was “a bloody scene with shell casings everywhere.”
One firearm was recovered.
Garcetti said he was confident police would unravel questions surrounding the shooting, and expressed sympathy for victims’ families.