By Edwin Folven, 8/09/2012
Separate pot shop is burglarized in Koreatown
Separate medical marijuana dispensaries have been robbed or burglarized during the past month in Koreatown and the neighborhoods west of downtown Los Angeles.
In the most recent incident around 8:15 a.m. on July 20, two unknown suspects entered a dispensary in the 3500 block of West 3rd Street through a rooftop skylight and stole an undisclosed amount of marijuana. Investigators are still trying to identify the perpetrators, who were captured on surveillance video. They are described as being Hispanic men between 25 and 30 years old, five-feet-ten-inches to six-feet-tall, and 150 to 200 pounds. One suspect was wearing glasses and had a thin mustache, while the other had a shaved head. Anyone with information is asked to call burglary detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Division at (213)382-9440.
Three suspects also robbed a medical marijuana dispensary in the 1300 block of Olympic Boulevard on July 17 and shot a security guard. Police arrested the getaway driver — Brandon Mabson-Martin, 28 — but are still searching for the two suspects who entered the dispensary and committed the robbery. The incident occurred around 11 a.m., when one of the suspects, identified as Cornell White, 25, asked a security guard to let him inside. Det. Ross Nemeroff, with the LAPD’s Rampart Division Gang Unit, said White was a frequent customer at the dispensary and the guard recognized him. Once the security door was opened, two additional suspects followed White inside and committed the robbery. Nemeroff said the suspects stole money and marijuana valued in the thousands of dollars. The marijuana was recovered after one of the suspects dropped it while attempting the getaway, Nemeroff added, but an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen.
“It was an armed takeover robbery; two of the suspects had handguns,” Nemeroff said. “There was at least one customer there at the time, but no one was injured. I’m not sure how many employees were there, but there were a lot of people.”
Nemeroff added that the armed security guard followed the suspects after they fled the scene and confronted them near the corner of 11th and Albany streets. One of the suspects shot the security guard in the leg, and the trio fled in a 1985 Toyota Celica. The guard was treated for the gunshot wound and is recovering.
“We haven’t had any trouble at this particular place before. To my knowledge, it was operating legally and had been there for some time,” Nemeroff said. “They [dispensaries] are inherently dangerous, because there is money and drugs there. You will see a lot of violent confrontations in medical marijuana robberies.”
Officers from the LAPD’s Southwest Division located the getaway vehicle a few hours after the robbery and arrested Mabson-Martin. Investigators identified White, but do not know the identity of the other suspect. All three men are allegedly gang members who live in South Los Angeles, Nemeroff added.
Mabson-Martin was charged with robbery and has since been released on $150,000 bail. The additional wanted suspect is described as being African American, 35 to 40 years old, six-feet-tall and 220 to 250 pounds. White is described as being African American, 25-years-old with a thin build. Nemeroff said the suspects face robbery charges, but that may be amended to attempted murder because the security guard was shot.
Capt. Eric Davis, the commanding officer with the LAPD’s Wilshire Division, said there haven’t been any similar crimes recently at medical marijuana dispensaries in the Wilshire area, but added that officers routinely patrol around the dispensaries because they know they can be a magnet for crime. Davis said investigators are in the process of identifying all dispensaries operating in the Wilshire area so they can begin enforcement once a ban passed by the city council takes effect in September.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said his office is in the process of sending letters to all of the dispensaries operating in the city, notifying them they must close or face criminal prosecution and fines. He said there is a lot of uncertainty about prosecuting the dispensary owners, however, because the city council at a future date will consider a proposal by Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District, that would allow some of the dispensaries that were operating legally before the 2007 moratorium to stay open. Trutanich added that the issue is further clouded by an expectation that the California Supreme Court will eventually rule on whether cities can ban medical marijuana dispensaries, which could force the city to change its approach, and the fact that medical marijuana is illegal under federal law.
“The council passed a ban. Right now, they are all illegal. We will be sending out the letters and the LAPD will be identifying places that should be shut down,” Trutanich said. “There is a discrepancy between the state law and federal law. We are hoping the Supreme Court will clear up the issue.”