The shooting deaths of four Armenian men in a North Hollywood cafe is expected to be a challenge for detectives with the Robbery-Homicide Division, who are working today to establish a motive.
There was no official word if members of the Southern California Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force were helping Los Angeles police in the investigation. The multi-agency task force was formed several years ago to help deal with such crimes.
So far, detectives have gotten conflicting accounts of what happened Saturday afternoon at the often-closed Hot Spot Cafe, a restaurant with dark, tinted windows at 11651 Riverside Drive.
According to the Hot Spot's owner, a group of 30-40 had reserved the cafe earlier that day and arrived around 1 p.m. after attending a funeral.
Artour Balian told the Los Angeles Times the victims who were shot were the only customers left after most of the larger group left.
Balian told The Times the men were sitting quietly, talking among themselves and apparently at ease. He said the group was served a traditional Armenian spread, including short ribs, sturgeon and hummus.
Balian left the cafe to go home but got a call almost immediately, around 4:30 p.m.
"They said `hurry up hurry up, they're killing each other,'" Balian told The Times.
Detectives reportedly are skeptical of some witness accounts and unsure if there was one gunman or two. Police said one suspect was described as an Armenian man about 30.
Three of the men at the table died where they fell, and a fourth died at a hospital.
All four of the fatally shot men were of Armenian descent: Harut Baburyan, 28, Sarkis Karadjian, 26, Vardan Tofalyan, 31, and Hayk Yegnanyan, 25.
Two other wounded men, whose names have not been made public, were hospitalized. At least 17 bullets were fired, leading police to believe there may have been more than one gunman.
Early Sunday, police had a white Toyota with blood splattered on it towed away from the restaurant.
Community leaders in the Valley Village area learned a day after the shootings that Los Angeles police were working with officers in predominately-Armenian Glendale "to apprehend the suspects."
Police have not said if the bloodshed was connected to the shooting death of a woman in Hollywood a week earlier.
Karyn Safaryan was found shot to death in an apartment parking area in the 5800 block of Lexington Avenue. Her husband and one of her two daughters were shot to death in Hollywood in 2008. The surviving daughter has been offered police protection.