Gordon Tokumatsu, Tom Bravo
Los Angeles police detectives are asking for the public's help to catch a man they're calling the "Western Bandit," who is suspected of killing one person and committing a series of armed robberies from Hollywood to South LA. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2012.
Police on Friday sought the public’s help to find a murder suspect and robber, dubbed the "Western Bandit," who they believe fatally shot a transgender woman and is behind a string of violent robberies in South Los Angeles.
Police believe the man is responsible for robberies that have occurred in the areas around Western Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Florence Avenue for a year, including a fatal shooting and a shooting and purse snatching.
In another case, he is believed to have fired his gun even after the woman gave him money, police said.
Los Angeles police said he should be considered armed and dangerous and is "quick with the gun."
LAPD Lt. John Radtke said detectives have formed a task force to track him down. Officers believe the man behind the killing is the same one behind the robberies.
"At the same time that the person was killed last year in Hollywood, we had a flurry of activity," he said. "There were several robberies. Then the suspect vanished for a while and then we believe he returned late this summer. And we believe that he is active again."
Authorities have released footage of a man caught on surveillance video robbing employees of a 7-Eleven at gunpoint on Oct. 6.
In that case, police said a man with a gun walked into the store in the 700 block of West Vernon Avenue, ordered the cashier to open the registers and then lay down on the floor before he took the money and disappeared.
Police said he struck again on Oct. 24 at the same location, but this time he was seen making his getaway on a red or orange mountain bike heading east on Vernon Avenue.
Police believe the man is responsible for the gunshot killing of 32-year-old Nathan Henry Vickers, a transgender woman, on Nov. 17, 2011. Vickers died after being found unconscious and suffering from a bullet wound on Lexington Avenue and Gower Street.
Marisela Meza, who works in the area, wonders if the "Western Bandit" is the same guy who robbed her.
"He just pointed a gun at me and had me give him the money," Meza said. "I was really,really scared."
He’s described as African-American, between 25 and 35-years-old, about 5 foot 10 to 6 foot 1.
He weighs 180 to 220 pounds and was wearing a black beanie, black gloves, black sweater, black pants and black shoes. Police said he had a blue-steel semi-automatic pistol.
His latest likely crime -- an attempted street robbery with shots fired -- occurred on Oct. 10 in South Los Angeles, Radke said.
The crimes he’s believed to have committed have occurred from 9:30 p.m. to 7 in the morning, Radke said.
He tends to walk up on people or rides up on a bicycle. He seems to like people who are either seated in their cars or near vehicles. He'll demand property, police said.
Anyone with information regarding the crime is encouraged to contact Hollywood Homicide Detectives Vinton or Officer Goodkin at (213) 972-2910 during regular business hours. During non-business hours or on weekends calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247).