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Los Angeles police probe fatal shootings at 2 medical marijuana dispensaries

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  1. buseman
    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Homicide detectives were trying to determine Friday whether deadly attacks on staff at two medical marijuana dispensaries were connected.

    The attacks Thursday came amid concern about the proliferation of pot clinics and new city regulations that could shutter hundreds of them.

    Four robbers gunned down an employee and wounded another at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday at Higher Path Holistic Care Collective on Sunset Boulevard in the Echo Park area, said Cmdr. David Doan, chief of detectives.

    Killed was Matthew Butcher, 27, of Los Angeles, a coroner's official said. The other employee, whose name was not released, was hospitalized in critical condition, police said.

    Five hours after the first attack, the owner of the Hollywood Holistic dispensary found the body of an employee at the Hollywood store, Doan said.

    The man was in his 30s, but his name was not released. He appeared to have been stabbed to death.

    There were no immediate arrests.

    Investigators do not know the motive for the second killing and were unsure whether the two attacks were linked.

    No surveillance video was available from either store, and detectives think video footage from Hollywood Holistic was deliberately destroyed by an employee at another clinic in the same building, said a law enforcement official who asked not to be identified because the investigation was ongoing.

    Butcher's mother, Julie Butcher, told the Los Angeles Times her son had been trying to make ends meet in a tough economy.

    He was one of the most peaceful people, she said He would have given them anything they wanted. There's no reason for anyone to die over marijuana.

    Marijuana dispensaries handle large amounts of money, which could make them targets for robbers. In October 2008, a group of men walked into La Brea Collective and fatally shot a security guard during an attempted robbery.

    Crime was among the concerns that prompted the City Council to crack down on pot dispensaries, which have flourished since California voters legalized use of marijuana for medical reasons in 1996.

    The medical marijuana initiative did not address actual sales of the drug, and communities up and down the state have struggled to craft laws. Some have outright banned pot clinics, which call themselves collectives and supposedly only sell to members with medical problems.

    New Los Angeles city regulations that took effect earlier this month bar dispensaries from being near homes, schools, churches or parks. Some began closing, and city officials have said an estimated 400 clinics could be forced out of business.

    More than 130 existing dispensaries that registered before a 2007 moratorium can stay open if they prove within six months that they meet the new guidelines.

    Doan said both the clinics where the shootings occurred were licensed before the moratorium.

    ROBERT JABLON
    June 25, 2010
    http://www.the33tv.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-us-medical-marijuana-killings,0,6241412.story

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  1. bananaskin
    2 Dead, 2 Hurt During Robberies At 2 Pot Clinics

    Police say an employee of the Hollywood Holistic store was found dead at the scene Thursday night following an apparent robbery attempt.

    LOS ANGELES (CBS) ―Officials say one man was killed and
    another wounded in a shooting Thursday afternoon at a medical marijuana dispensary in Echo Park. Hours later, another fatal shooting was reported at a clinic in Hollywood.

    Police are not saying if the two shootings are related.

    The first shooting was reported at 4:13 p.m. at the Higher Patch Holistic Care in the 1300 block of Sunset Boulevard, near Dodger Stadium, according to Officer Rosario Herrera of the Los Angeles Police Department.

    In the second shooting, reported Thursday evening, one person was reportedly killed at a medical marijuana dispensary in Hollywood.

    That shooting occurred in the 1600 block of North El Centro, according to LAPD Officer Rosario.

    An employee of the Hollywood Holistic store was found dead at the scene following an apparent robbery attempt.

    Police would not say how the worker was killed, only that it was a homicide.

    CBS Broadcasting Inc.
    Jun 25, 2010

    http://cbs2.com/local/echo.park.medical.2.1771574.html
  2. bananaskin
    Police investigate possible link in killings of marijuana store employees

    LOS ANGELES -- The killings of two pot dispensary workers just five hours and five miles apart - one shot in Echo Park, the other apparently stabbed in Hollywood - triggered a police investigation Friday to determine whether they were linked and rattled medical marijuana advocates.

    Two senior Los Angeles Police officials who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation said Thursday's slayings appear to be unrelated. But the sheriff and district attorney said their brutality suggests the work of violent gangs.

    The homicides could revive the debate over whether dispensaries make their neighborhoods unsafe, but police could recall only one other slaying at a dispensary. They come as the city is trying to shut down about 400 illegal dispensaries and exert control over approved outlets.

    Police said dispensaries are lucrative targets. "They have a lot of cash," Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief David Doan said at a news conference. "That's what's attractive. Any business that does a lot of cash business has that risk."

    The violence began about 4:15 p.m. at the Higher Path Holistic Care Collective on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. Four suspects entered, ordered the two employees to lie face-down at gunpoint and ransacked the store for cash and marijuana, police sources said. Although the two did not resist, the attackers shot them, according to an account the critically wounded victim gave to police.

    Matthew Benjamin Butcher, 27, was killed. Julie Butcher, a regional director of the Service Employees International Union Local 721, said her son was trying to cobble together part-time jobs in a tough economy. "He was one of the most peaceful people," she said, calling his death "totally senseless."

    "He would have given them anything they wanted," she said. "There's no reason for anyone to die over marijuana."

    About 9 p.m., the operator of Hollywood Holistic 2 off Sunset Boulevard walked in to find his employee dead. Police said the man was killed shortly before.

    The victim suffered stab wounds, the police sources said, although detectives are awaiting the results of the coroner's initial investigation. Police have not released his name.

    Police said crime at dispensaries does not appear to be on the rise. Citing preliminary data, Lt. Sean Malinowski said there have been 48 crimes at dispensaries so far this year. Last year at this time, he said, there were 49. In 2009, there were 115 crimes at dispensaries, mostly robberies and burglaries.

    The killings rattled medical marijuana collective operators and patient advocates. "I'm just a little bit worried that people in our community are being targeted," said Cheryl Aichele, a medical marijuana patient and advocate who organized an evening candlelight vigil outside The Higher Path.

    Yamileth Bolanos, a dispensary operator and the president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, criticized a provision in the city's medical marijuana ordinance that will require dispensaries to have unarmed security guards. "To me, that's the scariest thing in the world," she said. "We're just sitting ducks, and everybody says that."

    But Michael Backes, who runs Cornerstone Research Collective in Eagle Rock near downtown Los Angeles, said, "If you can't control the situation without a weapon, you're not going to be able to control it with a weapon."

    Bolanos said several operators told her that business was extremely light Friday. "Everybody's scared," she said. "Every time that something bad happens, the patients pull back for a day or so."

    Police detectives continue to chase clues. Although it is early, investigators believe the killings are not related because of the significant differences at the crime scenes, said the senior police officials.

    Unlike the Higher Path incident, no drugs or money appeared to be taken in the attack at Hollywood Holistic 2, the sources said, leaving detectives to
    speculate that the killer may have panicked and fled after the slaying, or perhaps had intended to kill the man for another reason.

    In both crimes, the suspects removed the surveillance videos, the police officials said. The city's ordinance addresses that by requiring dispensaries to install web-based surveillance systems. The ordinance also requires dispensaries to make bank drops twice a day.

    Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and District Attorney Steve Cooley, who were attending a news conference Friday to oppose the marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, said the vicious nature of the crimes suggested they could be linked to drug gangs.

    "It's one thing to go in and put a gun in the face of a person who's running a commercial establishment and ask him for the money. It's a totally different thing by assassinating the person that you're robbing," Baca said. "That, to me, is very cartel-ish in its style."

    But Baca also said there have been no robberies or violence at dispensaries in the Sheriff Department's jurisdiction, which includes West Hollywood.

    Cooley, who has prosecuted scores of dispensaries and is the Republican Party's nominee for attorney general, said, "It's predictable gangs will get involved. They go where the money is."

    The two dispensaries are among those that registered in 2007 to continue to operate legally under the city's pot-shop moratorium, and both recently notified the City Clerk that they intend to remain open.

    Kristin Dickson, who owns a craft and clothing store near Higher Path, said she went outside Thursday and saw a security guard bleeding as he walked down the street.

    "I don't have anything against marijuana pharmacies as a business," she said. "But because it's created opportunities for crime, as a business owner, I want something that complements my business, not something that creates an opportunity for crime to happen."

    Across the street at Hubbard Auto Repair, office manager Lorena Hubbard said she believed police had responded twice before to robberies at the site. The first time, she said, the operators installed cameras. The second time, she said, the robbers tied up everyone in the store.

    Backes, who runs Cornerstone, said Butcher had worked for him for about a year as a part-time bookkeeper. He described him as bright and curious, "definitely not the hardened pot shop guy."

    "He's really, really a sweet human being. It's a real shock," he said.

    Billy Bones, the operator of Hollywood Holistic 2, said the store has been open two years and has never been the target of any crimes or violence before Thursday.

    Bones said his slain employee "was a good guy." "He didn't deserve this," he said. "He was really good with people. I'm pretty sure he would have given them anything they wanted."

    Times staff writers John Hoeffel and David Zahniser contributed to this report.

    By JOEL RUBIN AND PALOMA ESQUIVEL - Los Angeles Times
    Friday, Jun. 25, 2010
    Lexington Herald - Leader

    http://www.kentucky.com/2010/06/25/1324270/police-investigate-possible-link.html

    Comment:
    Picture from the original story at:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-marijuana-slayings-20100626,0,7748364,full.story
  3. bananaskin
    Cartels linked to marijuana dispensary killings

    LOS ANGELES: The killings of two marijuana dispensary workers just five hours and nine kilometres apart have triggered a police investigation to determine whether they were linked and have rattled advocates of the medical use of marijuana.

    Two Los Angeles police officials said the killings on Thursday appeared to be unrelated.

    But the Los Angeles County sheriff, Lee Baca, sought to link them to violent drug gangs.

    Sherrif Baca, who was attending a news conference to oppose an initiative on the November ballot seeking the legalisation of marijuana, said: ''It's one thing to go in and put a gun in the face of a person who's running a commercial establishment and ask him for the money. It's a totally different thing assassinating the person that you're robbing. That, to me, is very cartel-ish in its style.''

    The killings could revive the debate over whether medical marijuana dispensaries make their neighbourhoods unsafe, although police could recall only one other killing at a dispensary. They come as Los Angeles is trying to shut down about 400 illegal dispensaries and exert control over approved outlets.

    Police said dispensaries were lucrative targets because they did a lot of cash business. The killings rattled medical marijuana collective operators and patient advocates.

    ''I'm just a little bit worried that people in our community are being targeted,'' said Cheryl Aichele, a medical marijuana patient and advocate who organised an evening candlelight vigil outside The Higher Path, where Matthew Butcher, 27, was shot dead.

    Unlike in the Higher Path killing, no drugs or money appeared to have be taken in the attack at Hollywood Holistic 2, where a worker was stabbed to death.

    Los Angeles Times
    28th June 2010

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/cartels-linked-to-marijuana-dispensary-killings-20100627-zc37.html
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