Police Look For Links In Pot-Shop Killings

Owners, customers and neighbors of marijuana dispensaries are wary in the wake of two slayings.

By Joel Rubin and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

June 26, 2010

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. Thursday’s killings occurred 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,” LAPD 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.”