An Eastsider reader was about to pump gas at the 76 Station at the corner of Fourth Street and Boyle Avenue in Boyle Heights Thursday afternoon when he thought he heard something in the background as trucks and cars rushed by. Then he noticed that other gas station customers were looking across Boyle Avenue. He turned to see a female traffic control officer running on Boyle to the body of a man who had fallen face down into the street near the curb. At first it was not clear what had happened. Had he been hit by a car? It turned out the man had just been shot several times. The Eastsider reader described what happened in the next few minutes before police arrived as he and others watched a man die near the corner of Fourth and Boyle. The man’s last audible words: “I’ve been shot.”
The reader, who did not want his name disclosed, and others rushed to the man, a Latino dressed in jeans and a dark shirt, who had collapsed on to the pavement between two cars. An older man was heard to say “Fueron cinco balazos” (There were five gunshots). The victim somehow managed to stand up. Blood covered one of his hands and he had a bloody spot on his chin. He tried to speak but the only words The Eastsider reader could understand were, “I’ve been shot.” Blood began to sputter and then pour out of the victim’s mouth. He began to convulse and onlookers helped him sit down on the curb. A medic in a passing ambulance pulled over and came to the victim’s assistance. But the man’s eyes rolled backed into his head he fell back on the pavement. A woman began to wail.
The Eastsider reader then noticed that some of the people who had rushed to the scene were suddenly gone. He became fearful. “I didn’t know who had done it and if they were still there.” As police sealed off the street and paramedics arrived, The Eastsider reader walked back to the gas station and and drove off. “I went to get a drink. I needed a beer.”
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, The Eastsider reader said he had seen other people shot. But their deaths had been nearly instantaneous – not the slow motion death he witnessed on Thursday afternoon. “It’s going to take a while to bury those images.”
The suspects in what is believed to be a gang-related shooting remain at large, an LAPD spokeswoman said today. Thursday’s killing follows three other recent Boyle Heights homicides.
* Update: The victim has been identified as 29-year-old Emmanuel Vargas. LAPD