It would be hard to miss this guy, don’t you think? Nineteen days after gunning down two men outside the 7-11 at Roscoe and Sepulveda, one-eyed, face-tatted, heat-packing, quick-on-the-trigger Angel Santana was apprehended at the Palm Tree Inn…a block from the crime scene. The motel was also the ‘residence’ of DeShawn Miles, one of the victims.
To quote Capt. Todd Chamberlain of the LAPD: “There’s something more to it than race, whether it’s gang, whether it’s some other activity.” Hmmm, I’m stumped. What other sort of activity could this be?
Somehow -for 19 days- this guy was at large in the neighborhood, despite having his face on TV. I don’t think that speaks well of a lot of people. As it happened, I walked through North Hills twice in that period, with camera and dog, and was confronted at one point by a tattooed sh**head straddling his bike and warily eyeballing passerby on Sepulveda. He wanted to know how long ‘I’d been working with the police’. I chalked it up to random street hassle at the time. Now I wonder if there wasn’t more to it.
Two weeks ago two men were gunned down in front of the 7-11 on Sepulveda and Roscoe. Their address was listed as the Palm Tree Inn. Last night, fresh off watching Her, I walked up Sepulveda into North Hills. I saw the usual women working the motels. Also people pushing churro carts and selling flowers. Day laborers carrying duffel bags to the launderia.
On Parthenia St, a man in front of the Igelsia Evangelista beckoned passerby into a service which was about to begin. He handed me a religious tract. ‘It’s important information. It is good for you. I promise.’ It explained how Christ would bridge the gap between sin and everlasting life. There was a place on the back for me to sign my confession. Across the street another service was beginning at the Ministerio Cristiano Dios Con Nostros. There weren’t enough chairs and people stood in the doorway. Around the corner a man with a bullhorn stood behind a chain link fence beseeching people playing futbol at the North Hills Rec Center to repent and join him. His church was large and empty.
I walked up Langdon Street and saw people emerging from their cars with creaky limbs after a long days work. I saw people standing shirtless in open windows, their bellies hanging out in the evening breeze. The shrieks of children playing in a scrum behind fortified gates of garden apartments filled the air. Mattresses and couches were piled up on the sidewalks awaiting bulky item pickup. Men with neck tattoos pushed baby strollers while their baby mamas kept up a steady patter of conversation. People repaired their cars in the street. Gypsy merchants sold goods out of vans double parked in driveways.
On Sepulveda a police officer was talking to two prostitutes. ‘I heard someone’s daddy was killed recently over at the 7-11.’ They shrugged indifferently. In front of the Palm Tree Inn, a gang banger straddling a bicycle saw my camera and wanted to know how long I’d ‘been working with the police’. I ignored him, and continued south, back to Van Nuys.
Sepulveda Blvd. has a hooker problem. This is not news to people in Van Nuys. But if you are clicking here from another part of the world, take my word for it, there’s been one for some time. From the Voyager and the Hyland motels, from the Ridge and the Palm Tree Inn they promenade forth in pairs in the late afternoon, Molly-rolling through the night. Again under the unforgiving dawn they work the morning commute, a sullen cluster of the living dead in front of Jon’s supermarket. Without fear of interference from the municipal government, pimps wield a dark, alchemical power. Their chattel, formerly citizens of the United States, toil up and down the boulevard alongside backpack-toting middle schoolers. They block shoppers turning into the parking lot at Fresh and Easy. They take up benches at bus stops and threaten all manner of whup-ass at passerby who stare, frown disapproval, or worse, take pictures. All this dreary pageantry playing out within a frisbee toss of the urban Mayberry of tree-lined streets that is the Real Van Nuys. The Van Nuys of the 60-hour workweek. The Van Nuys of Sunday barbacoa, birthday parties and mass.
Until now. Our City Council person, Nury Martinez, has decided to get tough with these guys. Seriously. She’s done with being concerned. She’s taking a stand. She’s going to….
…’target liquor stores and strip clubs’. That’ll do it! No new licenses or permits will be issued for the next….45 days. ‘It seems like the vice activities feed on each other,” Martinez was quoted in the Times, adding: “We don’t want these types of businesses to lure the pimps.” There hasn’t been a new strip club or liquor store on Sepulveda in the past decade I have lived here, and probably a decade longer before that, but the council was undeterred. The measure passed unanimously. Against the accusation of silliness, the proposal was amended to include motels. For the next 45 days…..no more motel permits! This will be sure to strike fear in the last motel builder in Van Nuys, who shed this mortal coil somewhere around the Carter administration.
Just this afternoon, walking Giles, I watched two teen-aged black girls hook a passing car, and direct him into the Travel Inn. ‘Just pull right on in there. We working there.’ In, he pulled. They walked right past the motel office window. There appeared to be brisk activity in the parking lot and on the balconies. Not a cop or politician in sight. They’ve got it figured out, though. No more Travel Inns! No Travel Inn annex! They’ve put their foot down! Nothing more to see here. Just a 15-year-old taking if five times a night from strangers, on prom weekend, a thousand miles from home. Daddy wants his money.