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2 murders at 2 different L.A. pot clinics

June 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two people were murdered at two different Los Angeles medical marijuana clinics on Thursday. Police are trying to figure out whether the cases are related. The first murder was on the 1300 block of Sunset Boulevard in the Echo Park area. Police said four suspects entered Higher Path Holistic Clinic at about 4:30 p.m. to rob the business. Shots were fired, killing one man and wounding a second.

Police said it appeared robbery was the motive for the shooting.

"As a result of that armed robbery, shots were fired, and there is one deceased employee and one employee who is still alive," said LAPD Cmdr. David Doan.

Matthew Butcher, 27, of Los Angeles, was killed in the shooting. Butcher is the son of L.A. labor leader Julie Butcher. The surviving victim is in critical condition and unable to communicate with detectives.

About five hours after the first shooting, police responded to another murder at the Hollywood Holistic 2 along the 1600 block of North El Centro Avenue. Police said an employee was discovered dead at the location.

Doan said while the motive was clearly robbery in the first incident, it was not so clear in the second incident.

Police did not release the name of the employee killed in Hollywood.

"Because we're not clear on the facts on the second murder, we're not prepared to say that these are not linked, and we're also not prepared to say that they are linked," Doan said.

Surveillance video at both dispensaries was missing. "Whether they were taken or not is part of our investigation," said Doan. The Hollywood building, though, has many video cameras on site.

The attorney for one of the neighboring businesses said their cameras were rolling at the time of the robbery.

"We're working with the L.A. Police Department right now, the detectives, to obtain the information that they need, and hopefully we can bring this criminal to justice," said attorney Frank Chimienti.

Investigators say cameras aren't enough to prevent these violent crimes. Because marijuana dispensaries deal mostly in cash, detectives say they are popular targets for violent hold-ups.

"We would hope that all businesses who do deal with large amounts of money will take the necessary steps to protect themselves against robberies and minimize the chance that their employees will be harmed," said Doan.

Police said they are having a hard time linking the two fatal shootings because of the lack of witnesses.

"We don't have any suspect information at this time, and the investigation is just getting started," said LAPD Lt. Robert Binder.

Business owners in the area said the Hollywood Holistic store had only been in the area for a few months, and they noticed a change in the neighborhood's clientele since that time. They said a lot of people not only go there to buy their marijuana, but they end up hanging out and smoking their marijuana in the area.

They said they were not surprised to see this kind of violent crime in the neighborhood.

Authorities need the public's help finding the suspects. Anyone with information is urged to contact the LAPD at (877) LAPD-24-7.


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