LOS ANGELES — When Lady Gaga’s dogwalker was shot in Hollywood last week as he tried to fend off assailants who stole two of the singer’s French bulldogs, the attack not only made international headlines, but fit into a local crime pattern raising alarm among Los Angeles police officials: More robbery victims being shot.
Calling it a “disturbing trend,” LAPD Asst. Chief Beatrice Girmala told the L.A. Police Commission this week that 18 robbery victims had been shot in L.A. through Tuesday, compared with just one such shooting during the same period last year. Of the 18 shootings, 14 occurred on city streets.
“This is extremely concerning to the department and to the public,” Girmala said.
The increase comes amid a more general surge in serious violence in the city, where higher rates of shootings and homicides that began last year amid turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have carried over into 2021.
As of Tuesday, L.A. had recorded 64 homicides and 267 shootings, compared with 46 homicides and 111 shootings at the same point last year, Girmala said. “Shooting violence continues to plague our communities with citywide increases,” she said.
Why the overall increase in violence has spilled over into robberies is not clear. Although gang violence is blamed for much of the increase in homicides, Girmala said police have linked just two of the 18 robbery shootings to gangs.
The robberies also have occurred in different parts of the city and at different times. Two have been fatal. Cash and cellphones were often taken, though some incidents ended with nothing being stolen, police said.
LAPD officials said they need time to compile details for all 18 shootings, but the department has released information on several incidents, including the shooting of Lady Gaga’s dog walker Ryan Fischer, that underscore the trend.
In one assault caught on camera Feb. 4, a 26-year-old man was pistol-whipped and shot in the arm during a robbery in downtown L.A.
The man had been shopping with his wife, 28, and their 2-year-old son when two men hopped out of a gray Chrysler 300 near Seventh and Hill streets about 3 p.m., pointed a gun at the family and demanded their property, police said. Video showed the man grappling with one of the suspects on the sidewalk before the suspects fled.
A few weeks later, officers responded to an intersection just north of Culver City about 3:30 a.m. and found a robbery victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said. They described the assailant as wearing a black mask.
And in the evening on Feb. 26, police came upon a 24-year-old man from Georgia lying in the street between two parked vehicles in the Wilshire area after sustaining a fatal gunshot wound.
On Tuesday, the LAPD announced they had made two arrests in that case, alleging the suspects, also from Georgia, had shot Nazeer Defares during a robbery and then pushed him out of a moving vehicle.
In addition to the 14 street robberies, shootings occurred during robberies of a marijuana business, a music studio, a gas station and one other business, Girmala said.
Police are also seeing an uptick in street vendors being robbed, Girmala said, and the department has noted a recent string of robberies in the Wilshire area in which people were being robbed of expensive watches.
On Thursday, a woman was shot during a daytime robbery of another patron at famed Il Pastaio restaurant in neighboring Beverly Hills, police there said.
Girmala said the LAPD is working on an awareness campaign in Spanish and English to encourage street vendors who are robbed to bring the information to the police, as they believe incidents are going unreported.
The robbery and shooting of Fischer drew global attention, particularly after Lady Gaga offered a $500,000 reward for the return of her dogs and a woman brought the dogs to a police station. Police are still investigating the incident.
Police officials and others have questioned whether the attackers knew the dogs belonged to Lady Gaga, and if the attack was a calculated gamble that the pop superstar would offer a large reward for their return.
Fischer is recovering. In an Instagram post, he thanked the singer for her support and first responders and police for helping to save his life.