If crime is an indication of summer, then summer is getting started with a bang. Yesterday I spent much of my day at crime scenes, two while shooting for the AP and at one that just happened to be around the corner from my apartment. The first assignment for the AP came in the afternoon following a shooting on at a baseball field at the Penmar Recreation Center in Venice. There three victims were shot as a game was getting underway in what was believed to be a gang-related incident. One died on the scene, a second at the hospital and a third was expected to survive after a gunshot wound to the leg. The suspect is still at large after hopping into his car and speeding away. Sad news, but it’s also a typical local story with little interest outside of the neighborhood.
The second story was much, much bigger. Later that night I got a call to head over to the 1000 block of 3rd Street in Santa Monica. It was believed, and soon confirmed, that the FBI had arrested longtime fugitive crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger and his companion Catherine Greig at home in an apartment building just a couple blocks away from the bustling outdoor mall that is the 3rd Street Promenade. I didn’t realize at the time the magnitude of the arrest, but headed over to photograph the scene. Bulger was the number 2 most wanted person by the FBI, second only to Osama Bin Laden. He was wanted for the murders of 19 people during his reign in Boston in the 70s and 80s. He’s the basis for Jack Nicholson’s character in Scorcese’s “The Departed.” Bad dude. Right down the street in sunny Santa Monica!
The couple had been arrested earlier that evening, so all we could get were shots of the scene outside, with police guarding the exterior of the building as the Feds worked inside gathering evidence. Neighbors and looky-loos joined the press and police outside, many of them on their cell phones telling their friends “You wouldn’t believe it!” I didn’t have a problem with it until one lady kept asking me why that one camera’s lights kept flashing in the distance. I informed her it was a squad car. The call box at the front door was of particular interest to the media, as we wondered which name was the alias for the infamous gangster, who had apparently resided there for 15 years. It wasn’t officially confirmed, but later that night I was told it was Rozenzweig/Fein. (Just saw on Nightly News that they were going by Gasko. I was misinformed!). Neighbors spoke to the press about their brief encounters with the couple over the years. One guy had shaken his hand. Nothing out of the ordinary.
As the evening progressed the press and crowds dwindled. I hung out until I was released at two in the morning on the off chance that the Feds would soon exit with armfuls of evidence, but when a police officer delivered them food at 1:45 I knew the chances were slim that anything would happen anytime soon. I had worked an 18 hour day at this point and was ready to call it a night. Fortunately, it looks like they waited until daybreak to emerge with the evidence. The front page of LATimes.com has the photo we were hoping for.
After checking today, I can see my photos ran everywhere from the New York Times and Washington Post to the Wirtualna Polska, somewhere in Poland. Probably the biggest story I’ve shot here since Rachel Uchitel.
I still don’t know what the incident was in my own backyard, but I’ll look into. It had died down by the time I came upon the scene. Hopefully, as far as crime goes, the summer will not keep up at this pace!
Follow up: The local event was a bomb scare caused by an unattended package. Not a bomb. http://www.yovenice.com/2011/06/23/suspicious-package-brings-heavy-lapd-turnout/