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Riot Death Toll Exceeds Watts' Grim Record

By Leef Smith
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 2, 1992; Page A14

LOS ANGELES, MAY 1 -- The death toll climbed to 40 today in the third day of looting, fires and arson in the city, surpassing the 34 killed during the 1965 Watts riots.

Los Angeles County Coroner's Office officials said nearly all the victims are black men, although three whites and three Hispanics were among those killed. The victims range in age from 15 to nearly 50. Most of the victims died from gunshot wounds, some in confrontations with the police.

Of the 40 victims, 15 are believed to have died today, one of them late tonight in a shootout with police. Six of today's victims died in the hospital.

Bob Dambacher, a spokesman for the L.A. County Coroner's Office, said that the majority of the victims' names have not been released to the public because city violence, power outages and fires have made it difficult to notify the next of kin.

"You don't want to notify them (relatives) on the phone if you can find them," Dambacher said. "It's finding them that's hard."

The coroner has identified 10 victims. Three of them are: Louis A. Watson, 18, apparently shot to death at Vernon Street and Vermont Avenue in south-central Los Angeles; Dwight Taylor, 42, shot on West Martin Luther King Boulevard; Dennis Jackson, 38, killed in a shootout with police officers at a housing project. The officers had been sent to protect firefighters who were being shot at. All three men were black.

Five other gunshot victims were identified as: Anthony Netherly, a 21-year-old black man; Albert Wilkins, a 33-year-old black man; Arturo Miranda, a 20-year-old Hispanic man; Ira McCurry, who was white; and Mathew Haines, a 32-year-old white man.

Two black men -- Mallory Darnell, 18, and Channell Jerel, 26 -- were identified as two of the victims killed Wednesday night during a police chase. Their car crashed into a cinder block wall. A woman, who has not yet been identified, was killed in that crash as well.

More than 1,500 injuries have been reported by the Los Angeles County Fire Department since the riots began three days ago.

It appears that casualties have been lighter today than yesterday because of the increased police presence on the streets.

The circumstances of most of the deaths are unclear. According to the Associated Press, 28 died of gunshot wounds, six in encounters with police. Some were armed looters caught in the act. One security guard died defending a store from looters.

Some died in the crossfire of random shooting. A pedestrian was hit by a car. Three died in fires.

Sorting out what happened in some cases will be difficult, investigators said.

Associated Press also reported:

Haines was riding his motorcycle in a Long Beach residential neighborhood Thursday night with passenger Scott Coleman, 26, when they were stopped and robbed by a group of up to 15 young blacks.

Haines was shot in the head and died at the scene. Coleman was shot in the hand.

Miranda was driving home from soccer practice Wednesday night with his family when a bullet tore into the vehicle and hit him in the head. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A man was shot to death and a woman was wounded by police during an attempted robbery late Wednesday in suburban Inglewood.

One man was killed by Compton police Thursday afternoon.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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