The City Attorney's Office is suing a South Los Angeles store owner, alleging his Happy Shoppers Market is a public nuisance due to ongoing crime at the location, including the fatal shooting of a young man the day after the business opened in June.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Monday alleges Kenneth Wayne Franklin is a "documented and a founding member of a violent criminal street gang" who permits fellow gang members and their associates to "congregate, hang out and smoke marijuana at his business on a regular basis" both inside and behind the store in the 6400 block of South Vermont Avenue.
Franklin could not be immediately reached for comment.
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The city attorney is seeking a court order declaring the store a public nuisance, forcing its closure and enjoining Franklin from owning or operating any businesses in the state without court approval.
During the store's grand opening on June 23, 20 to 30 gang members and associates gathered inside and outside the business throughout the evening, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, according to the suit.
At 2 a.m. the following morning, 18-year-old Monte Bowman was shot several times outside the store. He stumbled inside the business and later died, according to police.
Franklin was present at the business when Bowman was killed, the suit states.
The store has also been the site of attempted murders, according to the complaint, which says the business operates 24 hours a day, but in a way much unlike other similar operations.
"The market is sometimes left unattended with no one behind the cash register or elsewhere in the store other than a couple individuals hanging out in the back," the suit says.
The store also "seemingly attracts illicit activity" both in and around the business, including scantily clad women who may be "sex workers," according to the suit, which alleges that drug purchases take place within vehicles parked outside the location.
The LAPD has received a "flood of complaints" from citizens about the market, which is "perilously close" to homes on 64th Street and a library that hosts story telling for children, the suit states.
Franklin has a history of operating market-type businesses that function primarily as gang strongholds rather than as legitimate businesses, the suit alleges.
"Given Franklin's history of operating and maintaining businesses that become dangerous (gang) strongholds ... this action is necessary to make the market safe for the surrounding community and to prevent Franklin from opening and operating yet another business that fosters these dangerous conditions elsewhere," the suit states.