South LA Motel Near Schools Is "Stronghold" for Gang: City Attorney

Authorities say criminal activity at the motel is putting children in danger and draining law enforcement resources

By Samantha Tata and Gordon Tokumatsu
|  Friday, Dec 20, 2013  |  Updated 8:24 PM PDT
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An undercover operation by the LAPD has led to an injunction from the City Attorney’s office against a motel -- situated within blocks of two schools -- suspected of being a safe-haven for gangs. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from South LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2013.

Gordon Tokumatsu

An undercover operation by the LAPD has led to an injunction from the City Attorney’s office against a motel -- situated within blocks of two schools -- suspected of being a safe-haven for gangs. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from South LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2013.

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Situated near two schools, a hotel known as a hub for gang activity and alleged drug sales is the target of an injunction levied by the Los Angeles City Attorney.

Authorities said the Las Palmas Motel, located at 7913 South Main St., is a “notorious stronghold and refuge” for members of the Florencia 13 street gang and their associates.

Reputed gang members allegedly sell drugs at the motel, dump and strip stolen cars in the parking lot, and have pulled a girl off the sidewalk outside the motel and threatened her at knifepoint, officials said.

“This noxious dynamic at the Motel corrodes public safety –including that of several young children currently living at the Motel -- and causes a significantly disproportionate drain on law enforcement resources,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement.

A 26-page complaint alleges that undercover officers have spotted known gang members and witnessed drug deals at the motel, which is within three blocks of Fremont High School and the 75th Street Elementary School, according to the complaint.

The complaint names the property’s owner – Galo Naranjo, Jr. – as someone who “witnesses the chaos” and lives on the property.

Feuer said he wants the owner to wipe the place clean of gangs, drugs, prostitution and violent crime.

Robert Battles and Lawanda Dorty live in a second-story walk-up with a commanding view of the Las Palmas motel, right across South Main Street. They said the activities described in the city’s complaint mesh with what they’ve seen at the motel.

“People running outta the motel, chasing other ones, like, ‘I gave you this!’ And, ‘I'm gonna kick your you-you-you!’ Dorty said.

The injunction seeks court-ordered improvements to the property including security guards and fences, a live-video feed accessible by LAPD, improved lighting and the banning of known gang members from the property.

Naranjo was presented with the complaint Thursday. He has 30 days to respond and if he chooses not to comply, Naranjo faces $10,000 in fines and fees.

NBC4’s requests to Naranjo for comment were not returned by the time of publication.

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