LA Forensics: The Sandwich Shop Murders
[Note: A number of names have been changed to protect identities]
It was around half past one in the morning on June 30, 1991. A woman named Rebecca who lived in an apartment in the middle class college town of Northridge had directed her boyfriend to park in the Sandwich shop lot on Devonshire Street and Zelzah Avenue, since parking on the street was tight. She happened to look inside the shop, still apparently open, and saw three men inside.
Two were white, while a black man at the counter seemed to be placing an order or talking to them. He held something that Rebecca thought resembled a metal bread pan. As she walked away from the shop, she heard an explosive noise and assumed the pan had dropped to the floor. When she glanced back, she saw only the black man and he was jumping over the counter or going around it, so she believed the three men were just having some fun. From where she was, she could see the LAPD Devonshire Station, so she never considered she was witnessing a crime in progress.
A few minutes later, as reported in the LA Times, at approximately 1:45 A.M., a man approached the shop to order a late-night snack. As he reached for the door, he saw someone lying on the floor and then spotted a pool of blood around the fallen man, so he ran to call the police from his car phone.
Officers arrived at 2:00 A.M. and found a body, identified as Brian Berry, 18, lying in front of the store's counter. An entry wound to the cheek and gunpowder stippling in his eyes indicated he'd been shot in the face while looking at the gun perhaps taken by surprise. He'd also been shot a second time, in the side of his head. But he was not the only victim. As police looked around, they found another young man. Behind the counter near the cash register, nineteen-year-old James White lay facedown in a puddle of blood. He was moaning, apparently still alive; an ambulance was called to rush him to the hospital. Then the officers prepared for the gruesome task of photographing and mapping the scene.