Ethiopian Shot; Police Suspect Race a Factor

Natasha Lee and Alicia Wittmeyer, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9

An Ethiopian immigrant was in critical condition today, after he was shot by gang members while driving with friends in Jefferson park late Monday.

Ghebremicael Asmelash, 21, was shot in the chest at close range after a confrontation with a pair of gang members that left him “very seriously injured,” said Los Angeles Police Department Lt. John Pasquariello.

Asmelash and his friends were stopped at a traffic light at Adams Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard when a dark Honda Accord pulled up alongside them about 12:30 a.m., Pasquariello said. The men in the Accord asked Asmelash and his three friends where they were from—referring to their gang affiliation.

When someone in the car said, “Ethiopia,” the driver of the Accord got out of the car, walked over and shot Asmelash once in the chest, Pasquariello said. The assailants then fled southbound on Crenshaw. Asmelash was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Police believe the shooting is connected to the ongoing tension between Los Angeles’ Latino and black communities. The gang members were Latino, Pasquariello said, although he would not confirm which gang they were affiliated with.

Asmelash and his friends were not associated with any gang activity, he said.

“Ethiopian is not a buzzword for any gang affiliation,” Pasquariello said. “This guy just showed up and shot him, merely because he was of the right color or race. That does happen.”

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