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Family Waits for Response to West Altadena Shooting

A gunshot shattered a window while Robin Rawal's son slept, but Rawal says Sheriff's Department deputies did little follow up--until Rawal's stepson found the shooter on his own.

On a night two Fridays back, Robin Rawal and her family were sleeping when out of nowhere a gun fired, she says, and a bullet shattered her son's bedroom window and lodged into the wall.  

Just one shot was fired, but when Rawal ran to the front of the house to see what happened, her son was crouching and told her to get down in case more shots were to follow.

If her son had been standing instead of lying in bed, the bullet could have hit him in the chest or in his head.

Two weeks after, Rawal is in an interesting position: She is upset that the did, in her opinion, very little to try to find the shooter right after the crime happened.  However, she now believes she knows who fired the gun, and she does not want to turn him in because she believes it was an accident.

She felt differently the night of the shooting and in the days before she found out who fired the shot, but at that point she was waiting for the Sheriff's Department to come back and start asking around the neighborhood for information.  But they didn't, she says.

"That's not a good feeling, when they left here without asking around more, when if my kid would have been standing he would be dead," Rawal said.

What feels even worse to Rawal is that she believes the department is not concerned about the shooting because of where she lives, west of Lincoln Avenue on Figueroa Street.

"If I were in a more affluent area of town they would have taken it seriously," Rawal said. "It it were on the other side of Lake, it wouldn't have happened this way."

Living in West Altadena

Rawal has lived in West Altadena neighborhoods for significant parts of her life: She was raised nearby where she currently lives and has been in the area for a while.

She readily admits that there are crime and gang issues in the area: She lives three doors down from a liquor store on Lincoln and knows that people hanging out in the area are sometimes up to no good.

But Rawal also says she has some great neighbors, friendly people who work hard and are kind.

Her son, Ricky--who was sleeping in the room where the bullet shattered the window--attends Pasadena City College and works at Trader Joe's.  He is working on transferring to a Cal State school.

Because the area she lives in does have a repuation for crime, and arrests do happen there, she feels that department deputies came in with an assumption that the shooting was simply gang-related, or that perhaps even that someone in her home did something that caused the shooting to happen.

Knocking on Doors

The night of the shooting, Rawal felt that deputies did very little to try to find the shooter.  She said that about five cars showed up, and the deputies mostly stood around in the street shining their flashlights and talking to each other. She said she and her sons were interviewed and a deputies spoke with a few neighbors standing around nearby the crime scene, but that was it.

Unsatisfied with the response, Rawal's stepson, Andre, did some investigating on his own: He knocked on doors up and down the street and asked neighbors if they knew what happened.

What they found out was that some people had heard a 16-year-old boy in the neighborhood had accidentally fired a shot from his gun while he was playing around with it while walking past their home.  

Her son Andre confronted the teen, who admitted to Andre that he had been the one who did it, according to Rawal.

Department Response

When asked about the shooting, Lt. Michael White of the Altadena Sheriff's Station told Altadena Patch that detectives believe it was a gang-related shooting, on the basis that the neighborhood has known gang members living and spending time in it.

He said that deputies at the scene interviewed four family members in Rawal's home, as well as two witnesses at the scene, and had no suspect information or other leads to work with.

There is no standard procedure for how to follow up on these kinds of cases, White said.  Rather, the department will decide on a case by case basis whether to send out detectives to do more follow-up work after a shooting.

When Patch spoke with Rawal on May 16, nobody had followed up on her case since the shooting happened. On the afternoon of May 17, within two hours after Patch contacted Lt. White, two detectives showed up at Rawal's door.

The two officers who came by identified themselves as gang detectives, Rawal said.  She told them she believed she knew who did it, but that she did not know his name (which is true).  She told them the same thing she told Patch: She does not want to see the kid arrested.

"Do I Want to be the Reason He Goes to Jail?"

In the days immediately following the shooting, Rawal had no doubt she wanted to see the person responsible for shooting up her house arrested.  She was angry and frustrated that nothing was being done.

Upon learning that the person responsible was a 16-year-old who did it accidentally, she now feels differently.

She believes the teen has a drug problem and is in danger of getting into serious trouble with the law down the road.

But Rawal also believes that if he is arrested now, there is no hope for his future.

"If I disclose who this is, I ruin his opportunity to have a good future," Rawal said.  "Do I want to be the reason why he goes to jail? No."

She said that in the first days after the accident she would have felt differently. If detectives had found the teen the same night, or in the days after, she would have wanted him to be arrested, she said.

She said her step-son "had a few words" with the kid and hopes that will wake him up and get him to straighten his life out.  At the same time, she said, as far as she knows he still could have the gun that he accidentally fired off two weeks ago.

Getting Past the Shooting

Rawal's son no longer sleeps in the front room of the house.  The bullet hole was still in the window when Rawal spoke with Altadena Patch, along with a hole in the wall.  The bullet is still somewhere in the wall, she said.

In the last week, Ricky took on a dog-sitting job, and he now sleeps with the animal, she said.  It helps him rest easier.

Rawal believes he is still traumatized from the shooting: She says he seems a bit more nervous and is spending more time away from home.  She describes him as "not quite comfortable."

As for Rawal, she is still frustrated about the department's response.  The bullet hole in the wall is a constant reminder of what happened, and she wishes the department had come to collect the bullet for evidence.

Rawal initially contacted Patch after she read about her case in the department's .  The blotter item ended with "no further information at this time."

By the time she read it she already knew about the teenager she believes did the shooting and it was a bitter reminder that nobody at the department had followed up the way her step-son did: knocking on doors and asking neighbors what they knew.

Rawal knows many neighbors who are reluctant to talk to police and she knows many who feel they are not treated with respect.  That's unfortunate, Rawal says, but to her it's understandable.  She feels the department was not concerned about her kid's safety.

"It's disheartening to feel this way," Rawal said. "I think it's part of why people end up having diminished respect for the police."

local May 18, 2012 at 08:09 PM
So the police should have done more. Why? So she could argue against pressing charges once she knew who it was?
Laura Monteros May 18, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Why does it make any difference if the shooter is an adult gang member or a crazy teenager, at least in making the arrest? Punishment is a different matter, and it's unlikely a 16-year-old would serve much, if any time in this case. But his parents can--and should--be held responsible for his possession of a weapon. Being arrested might be the best thing for the kid, because he could get help with his drug problem. Rawal jumps to a rather silly scenario--that her adult son could have been standing on the bed--to stoke her anger at the sheriff's department, and then refuses to help them. I'm not defending their apparent lack of follow up and not retrieving the bullet, but it seems she is blaming them for the shooting and then hogtying their ability to prevent future "accidents". Revvell is right.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 08:11 PM
@Revvell - It doesn't sound like anybody asked them. Communication is a two-way street.
eric johnson May 18, 2012 at 08:19 PM
absolutely, they respond differently in West Altadena. My house was broken into, the alarm company notified the sheriff department. I was at a Clipper game at Staples Center, left the game, drove home (30 minutes ETA). I arrived home the alarm still blaring, no sheriff, one of the thieves still in the house. He ran out, turned off the alarm, called the sheriff and 15 minutes later they arrived. Mind you they could drive backwards and have been at my home in under 5 minutes. Fortunately I didn't shoot the burglar, some neighbor's chromosome donee, not to mention California's coddling of criminals, I would have been the one charged with discharging a firearm in an enclosed area, and using deadly force on a thief who was quietly attempting to leave the premises with all my wife's Christmas gifts. If the sheriff had even attempted to do their job, none of this would have happened and maybe neither the next 150-200 break your window and steal your stuff, that has happened since.
Robby May 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Wow. Well-written story, Dan. I wonder if this will bind the neighborhood a little more closely. And this Andre kid sounds like a stand-up guy.
Ericka May 18, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I believe the article means if he had been standing up, rather than laying on the bed (not standing on the bed.) It sounds to me like the sheriff's department didn't really do their job - my concern is that perhaps they try a bit less on the west side when they assume it's gang-related. If people feel they won't get a response or aren't treated respectfully, then of course they won't cooperate with the police. We all pay for public safety, and crime on the west side shouldn't be treated differently than on the east side. I also believe it's easy to say she should turn in the kid - and I struggle with her reasoning for the same reasons as others - but let's say this was in your neighborhood, and it was your friend's son you'd known all your life...what are the chance you wouldn't struggle with this decision? I do agree that, given she admits he's heading down a bad path, the smart thing to do would probably be to turn him in. But sometimes we all do human things instead of smart things.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Yeah I should confirm that, she did not mean standing on the bed. That bullet hole was right below my eye level. It could have been real bad if people were standing up in the room.
Revvell May 19, 2012 at 12:44 PM
That's what THEY say ~ doesn't make it true, Dan.
Angela Odom May 19, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Wow, horrible story. My two experiences with the police has not been very good. One time I called because I saw a guy who was obviously out of place, standing in a neighbor's front yard (I knew he didn't live there), with a garbage bag full of something. I startled him when my headlights hit him in the face and he backed further into the neighbor's yard. I called the police. I went inside and watched for the police. He apparently was calling someone because I kept seeing the light on the cell phone. Needless to say, the police never showed up. Someone did come to pick the guy up and they both had to lift the heavy bag into the trunk of the car. Never saw the police and they never contacted me. She may be fearful if she does say something the police won't be there to protect her from retribution. I'm also surprised the bullet is still in the wall.
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Yeah well with the LACSD as totally and demonstrably corrupt as it is, thats probably not a very smart thing to do.
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Well as corrupt as the LACSD is, and as infiltrated as some of us believe it is by gangs, its probably not too very smart to tell them anything in a situation like this. It leaves those of us who live West of Lake with no real sane place to go with these issues.
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
EXACTLY
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Looks like we need to talk to Walter Martin again and see if we can organize his Motorcycle gang to protect the community like they did twenty years ago on Royce Street. Once the LACSD got embarrassed in the press because we had to resort to motorcycle gang members to clean our neighborhoods of violent drug dealers, The LACSD actually took an interest for a couple of years, and of course also got millions of dollars in extra funding and a book case full of certificates of appreciation......Funny no one even had to pay the motorcycle gang anything, we did buy them pizza on occasion..........
Dan Abendschein (Editor) May 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
No Revvell it is what the Sheriff's Department told me. They spoke with the four family members at the home and two other people standing around on the street following the shooting. They did not talk with other neighbors by going to their homes to ask what happened. By contrast, the step-son in the story did exactly that and someone told him who the shooter was.
Chris May 19, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Suggesting the SO has been infiltrated by gang members is ludicrous. Suggesting they are lazy union members is another issue. How this woman can get pissed at the SO yet not want to turn in the shooter is beyond me and seems to typify problems in West Altadena. Why does a 16 y.o. have a loaded gun in the first place?
Revvell May 19, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Well steve, that's why you have your thug friends. I'm sure they're sane enough for you to go to.
Revvell May 19, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Hear! Hear! Chris!
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Chris- It seems neither you nor Revvvvelllee have been reading the Los Angeles Times over the past decade. It is documented that the LACSD has been infiltrated by criminal gangs and has gangs of its own. To suggest at this point that you so not know and can not believe this is the truth is ludicrous. Having criminals as a ongoing part of Law Enforcement, doing things like controlling and profiting from the drug trade in the jails, makes the public less able to trust the police. The public never knows now when they look at that brown uniform if they are dealing with a criminal boss of that gun toting 16 year old or a honest cop.
Steve Lamb May 19, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Maybe that Mother doesn't like being in that position, not knowing if the Sheriffs she talks to are as much thugs or even boss thugs of the gun toting 16 year old
Revvell May 19, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Oh please Stevie, grow up. We're not talking about Men's Central Jail here ... and no, I don't read the LA Times. If that's where you get all your information... from a biased news source? C'mon home to Altadena.... Oh wait! I forgot! You DO live here yet, you support every place BUTT!
Ninja Girl May 20, 2012 at 12:23 AM
this is why west altadena remains a bad area to live. The fact that a resident will not turn a 16-YEAR-OLD walking around and "accidentally" shooting off a gun is a major problem. HELLO! 16-YEAR-OLD WITH A GUN! His parent(s) and law enforcement should be informed immediately! the gun should be confiscated and examined to see if there is a link to any local robberies, too. If the neighbors won't talk, the neighborhood will remain dirty! Have the care for the home you pay for, find your voice and help clean up the neighborhood! It's just sad. I had a nut jump over my fence and reported and had it documented just in case it was happening to others, and also in case residential robberies started, and this lady won't report a KID WITH A GUN? He should be toting school books! Not a gun! Where is the neighborhood watch? This sickens me!
Ninja Girl May 20, 2012 at 12:27 AM
PS: I agree w/ Chris and Revvell! Well said!
Ninja Girl May 20, 2012 at 12:29 AM
PSS: I agree w/ Carol and Lisa, too! Sorry! I'm upset, and just catching up to all comments :)
Revvell May 20, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Yeahhh, for all the good it did, Dan. He's still out there, loose, with his gun now, isn't he? As I said, if people don't talk.... Do you think if step-son was wearing a uniform with a badge pinned to it neighbors would have been so forth-coming?
Lisa Hastings May 20, 2012 at 01:43 AM
My experience with the Sheriff and their handling of the gang/drug/nuisance problem we had on our street has been positive. However, if what you say is true, it is disheartening and I would like to see the documentation that the "LACSD has been infiltrated by criminal gangs and has gangs of its own." I do remember reading something about the Rampart Division of the LAPD briefly having this kind of problem, but in no way does that mean the entire LAPD is corrupt. I do not remember reading anything about this type of problem with the Sheriff. Please provide links to the documentation.
Angela Odom May 20, 2012 at 02:38 AM
As for the LA County Sheriff's investigation, you can read and hear about it here: http://www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/2012/05/17/26539/la-county-sheriffs-gang-unit-deputies-placed-on-le . As for the 16-year-old boy with a gun, if this is the life he has chosen he needs to be arrested. He has to pay for the consequences of his actions. There were a couple (or more) homes shot at in the past few months and I'm interested in knowing if the same gun was used in all occurrences. The bullet needs to come out of the wall and tested. If it matches, then we'll know who did it. As far as East vs. West and what neighborhood is dirtier than another, I've lived in a very upscale building at the Grove and high class call girls were running the place along with upscale drug dealers and the people paying 1500 to 3000 a month in that place did not want to call the police. Their answer: "I don't want to get involved."
Lisa Hastings May 20, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Thanks Angela for the link. Corrupt deputies does not mean the entire organization is corrupt. As stated in the article, the Sheriff's Department took action against the offending deputies. A corrupt organization would have done nothing. I would like to see documentation of this alleged widespread corruption in the Sheriff's Department.
Angela Odom May 20, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Widespread corruption? Oh no, I don't believe it is widespread. As it is with everything you're going to have a few bad apples in the group. I know too many good ones to say it's widespread. Someone blew the whistle and I applaud the officer(s) for doing so.
Chris May 20, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I thought Lamb was suggesting gang activity within the LASO more than what the article pointed out. So what a few guys had tattoos and "signed" to each other. That does not prove overwhelming and systemic corruption. Bottom line is that the woman who won't turn in the shooter can't be upset about LASO not following up. She could easily give up his identity and I'm sure the detectives, who are NOT gang members, would take it from there. I didn't grow up in West Altadena so I don't know if it's common for 16 year olds to be walking around withe LOADED firearms. Where I did grow up 16 year old did not walk around with firearms, loaded or otherwise. The fact this kid was walking around with a loaded firearm suggests his life path isn't so great. Perhaps he needs the wake up call that a detective could give him. Yo, Lamb, you're a total reactionary. And, no, I don't usually read the LA Times. For national news I stick with the NY Times.
Travis Bickle May 24, 2012 at 02:23 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc Don't ever talk to police. Here is why.

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