Budding chef Andrew Stittiams wore his culinary uniform proudly. The 19-year-old Eagle Rock resident was studying to be a chef at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and had landed his first job as a prep-cook this summer at the Hollywood Bowl, said Cindy Salazar, a friend of Stittiams. He was “truly one of the good guys, a person you always wanted good things to happen to.” But on Veterans Day, just days before he was to leave on a camping trip to celebrate his 20th birthday, Stittiams was fatally stabbed not far from his home by a gang member who demanded to know what gang Stittiams was from.
Stittiams was not affiliated with a gang but the two suspects that have been arrested and charged with his murder are members of a Highland Park street gang, said Capt. Jeff Bert of the LAPD Northeast Division. Police are currently investigating possible motives, prior feuds as well as this being a deadly case of mistaken identity.
Salazar said that Stittiam’s other friends that she has met at his sidewalk memorial have said the main suspect in custody is a well-known gang member was would bully a lot of the local kids. Some residents have also raised concern that the murder may have been racially motivated since Stittiams was African-American and the suspects were Latino. But Bart said that there is no indication that race played a role in the murder. There were no racial comments made at the time the incident took place on Figueroa Street near Yosemite Drive, he said.
He said the two suspects, who were arrested Nov. 13, belong to a Highland Park-area, Latino gang that is not known to be anti-black. One count of murder has been filed against each defendant with gang enhancements. Bert declined to identify the suspects.
“Its horrifically sad,” Bert said. “It’s completely senseless and frustrating to us at Northeast, but we think we have the right people in custody, and that’s the silver lining in all of this.”
Lucy Guanuna, a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.