By Edwin Folven, 3/16/2011
City of West Hollywood Still Considering New Regulations
Two incidents involving party buses where people were seriously injured occurred last weekend in Hollywood, and Los Angeles Police Department officials are investigating what role the buses played in the incidents and who was at fault.
One incident involved a shooting outside the Wonderland nightclub at 1835 N. Cahuenga Blvd. on March 13, where four people were struck by gunfire. The incident occurred at 3 a.m. as people were leaving the nightclub. According to Lt. Michael Oreb, with the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, a fight occurred in front of the club and an unknown African American male suspect pulled out a handgun and began shooting. Several people fled the gunfire, and some boarded a party bus that was parked nearby. The bus drove off to avoid being involved in the shooting. Police later located the bus through witness accounts and questioned the driver. Oreb said none of the people on the bus are considered suspects, and it appears the bus may have just been near the location at the time of the shooting.
The four shooting victims were taken to nearby hospitals and treated for non-life threatening injuries. A 22-year-old female victim from North Hollywood was hit in the buttocks, while a 29-year-old male victim from Atlanta, Georgia was shot in the leg. A 46-year-old male victim and a 21-year-old female victim, both from Riverside, suffered graze wounds to the side of their heads.
The suspect was described as an African American man in his early 20s with a thin build. He was wearing a blue and white shirt and had his hair styled with multiple twists held together by rubber bands. Oreb said officials have not determined a motive for the shooting, and added that he was not aware of any problems at the nightclub in the past.
“Alcohol had stopped being served at 2 a.m., and the people were apparently leaving the club,” Oreb said. “At two or three in the morning, you have people everywhere in Hollywood.”
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Det. Kevin Becker at (213)972-2967.
Oreb said the second incident with a party bus involved a victim who was run over around 11:25 p.m. on March 12 at the corner of McCadden Place and Yucca Street. The victim, who was identified as 22-year-old Namar Burton of Murrietta, had reportedly been a passenger on the bus, but had been left behind and was trying to get the driver’s attention. He reportedly fell and was run over. Burton was taken to the hospital and remains in critical condition. Oreb said an investigation was being conducted to determine whether the driver or the victim was at fault.
The issues involving party busses and extra-long limousines havw come to the forefront lately after law enforcement officials have begun cracking down on the buses and limousines. The City of West Hollywood is also in the process of examining whether new regulations are needed on the vehicles. Some officials have complained that the buses and limousines come to the Hollywood and West Hollywood areas to just drive around, and never stop at any venues. West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who initiated the examination of the vehicles in that city, said they sometimes cause parking problems and traffic congestion.
“I think when you have a party bus and people are going out on the town, they may be more inclined to party harder, and that can lead to problems,” Prang said. “I don’t know if we ever contemplated violence like what happened in Hollywood, but the issues of parking and clogging up traffic remain.”
Lt David Smith, of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, said the issues involving party buses and limousines are still being considered, but added that deputies keep close tabs on the vehicles when they come to the city and do not allow them to linger in parking areas.
“They do show up. Some even come in school buses and larger tour buses,” Smith said. “We have had a few people come off the buses and cause problems. There is still no parking, and if the driver drops off the people in a safe manner and then goes away, we give them some time. Parking enforcement is very proactive, and they are not allowed to stay in one place for too long.”
Smith said alcohol is served on many of the buses and limousines, and the driver is required to have a permit for alcohol, which is one of the things officials check when they stop the vehicles. The driver is responsible for any criminal infractions that result.
Oreb said the LAPD and the California Highway Patrol periodically hold sting operations in Hollywood to ensure the buses and limousines are operating safely. During an operation in December, officers stopped 85 such vehicles and issued 47 citations for issues involving serving alcohol without a permit, excessive noise, expired registration and a variety of other vehicle code violations. Oreb said an additional crackdown is scheduled for the end of the March or the beginning of April, but an official date has not been set. The officials from the CHP who are directly involved in the enforcement actions were not available for comment.
Robert Rostomyan, the manager of a Burbank-based company called The World’s Biggest Limo, said the party buses and limousines are very popular among celebrities and clients wanting to go to Hollywood. The company operates the Colossus, a vehicle that is more than 40 feet long and is built on a truck chassis. The Colossus can hold 30 passengers. Rostomyan, said his vehicles are booked to go to Hollywood almost every weekend.
“They crack down on everybody, but we are obeying the law, so there are no problems,” Rostomyan said. “We just pick up and drop off. We don’t break any rules. We offer the sensation of being at a club without actually having to go to a club. People are riding in the back and aren’t drinking and driving, so I don’t see what the problem is.”
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