Pasadena moves to close club where student was killed

By Ashraf Khalil
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 30, 2007

Pasadena city officials have moved to shut down the unlicensed youth club where a 16-year-old was fatally shot this month.

Connie Orozco, the city’s chief prosecutor, obtained a temporary restraining order Tuesday to close the Underground, in the 2000 block of Lincoln Avenue in northwest Pasadena. The club’s fate will probably be decided in a Sept. 13 Superior Court hearing.

“Hopefully it never opens again,” Orozco said.

On Aug. 17, Blair High School student Ebony Jasmine Huel was shot in the head as she stood in a crowd outside the club, where parties for youths 18 and under had been held for several months. She died the next day. Police quickly arrested 19-year-old Johnl Dvon Reynolds, who had been released from prison three weeks earlier after serving a sentence for armed robbery.

Police Commander Michael Korpal said Reynolds apparently spotted a man in the crowd outside the club who had testified against him and had helped send him to prison. In the ensuing scuffle, Reynolds fired a single shot, which missed his intended target and struck Huel, Korpal said. “By all indicators, [Huel] was an innocent bystander,” Korpal said.

City officials had previously sent club owner Scott Murray a warning that he was operating in violation of both zoning and fire safety laws. Orozco said the club first came to her attention in July, after neighbors complained of noise and young clubgoers drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana on the sidewalk.

Orozco said Murray had originally asked for a business license to run what he said would be a tutoring facility. “To our observation, there was no tutoring going on. He was just holding parties and charging kids to attend,” she said.

Community activists described the shooting as part of an upward trend of gang violence in mostly black and Latino northwest Pasadena. The trend, they say, contrasts with the booming growth of the city’s Old Town.

“A lot of people see Pasadena as this lily-white paradise,” said Charles Thomas Jr., executive director of Outward Bound Adventures, which takes at-risk urban youth on wilderness trips.

Thomas’ office is two doors from where Huel was shot. “We’re failing as a community . . . to really connect in an authentic way with these teens,” he said.

Korpal, the police commander, acknowledged a gang problem that accounts for most of the city’s serious violence. “Seven out of eight homicides we’ve had this year are connected to gangs,” he said. “It’s a situation we’re trying to stay in front of.”

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