Updated Sunday, 9:55 p.m.
A normally quiet residential neighborhood along the border of Northridge and Granada Hills became the scene of one of the most horrific crimes to strike the San Fernando Valley in recent memory when four people were found shot to death outside a home on the 17400 block of Devonshire Street early Sunday morning.
Capt. William Hayes of the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery-Homicide Division said the victims were found by officers early Sunday morning about 4:25 a.m. after a 911 caller reported hearing multiple shots fired and people screaming.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, who represents the area, described the home as an unlicensed boarding house with "deplorable living conditions" where at least 12 people were residing.
No potential suspect or suspects have been identified by police and no weapon was discovered at the scene, Hayes said, who added that eight or nine people were inside the home at the time of the shooting.
“At this point in time, it’s very early in the stages. We’ve got conflicting information from witnesses. We’re trying to sort through all of that and put the story together,” Hayes said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference at the scene. (See the attached video.)
The victims were all believed to be of Asian descent, according to Officer Cleon Joseph of the LAPD Media Relations Section. The two female victims were approximately in their 20s, one male victim was in his 30s and the other male victim was in his 40s, Joseph said. Police would not confirm if any of the victims lived at the residence.
Englander, who is also a reserve officer with the LAPD, said police do not believe robbery was the motive for the shootings.
“This was clearly an isolated and targeted incident, it was not a random act. It did not appear that it was any type of attempted robbery, but something where the victims knew the suspect or suspects or had some type of acquaintance with them, because of where it occurred and the time it occurred. The fact that it was all close range, and [the victims] were all clothed and outside at that time,” Englander told Patch in a phone interview.
Hayes was asked if the victims were found face down and had been shot in the head execution style, as some early media reports had indicated, but he declined to confirm the reports, only saying the bodies were found in “differing positions.”
A neighbor, who wished to remain unidentified, told Patch he was under the impression the home was a boarding house or a sober living house. The house is surrounded by a fence, has two stories and is located in a neighborhood mostly populated with single-family houses.
“There were at least 10 guys living there and there were different people in and out of there all the time,” he said.
Englander said that he had been inside the home after the shootings and that it is an unlicensed boarding house. Boarding houses are required to be licensed with the state of California, Englander said.
“It was deplorable living conditions. Very unhealthy, very unsanitary, very unsafe,” Englander said. “One of the access points for one of the rooms—as an example, because there was so much furniture and debris against the door—was actually through the front window. There were mattresses all over the place and illegal structures that were barely habitable in the back, and clearly unsafe.”
Nearby residents said the area near the shootings is typically quiet and safe.
“I’ve been living here 25 years and I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this,” the unidentified neighbor told Patch.
He and another neighbor said that there was major police activity at the house about six or seven months ago, although they were unsure what the reason was.
“It is an incredibly quiet and safe neighborhood. In fact, it is only blocks away from the local police division,” Englander said. “It’s one of the safest neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, with few violent crimes. There certainly has been nothing of this nature in recent history.”
Los Angeles and other communities have seen a proliferation of unregulated boarding houses and group homes like the scene of the shootings over the last 10 years and further regulation by the city is needed, Englander said. An ordinance he drafted called the Community Care Facilities Ordinance is scheduled to be voted on by the Los Angeles City Council in January and if passed would ensure that unlicensed and unregulated group homes will not be allowed in low-density, single-family home areas like the scene of the shootings.
Because licensing is through the state, the city currently has little power to regulate boarding houses, but his ordinance would give the city “further teeth to go after them,” Englander said.
Patch will update this story as more information is available.
--Patch Editor Jessica Davis contributed to this report.