Los Angeles: On Saturday, November 9, 2002 at approximately 2:39 A.M., two Los Angeles Police Officers were flagged down by a male motorist at Crenshaw Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard. The male reported that a passenger in his vehicle had been shot. The officers observed that a male passenger was seated in the passenger seat and apparently suffering from a gunshot wound. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics were summoned and pronounced the death of the victim. The subsequent investigation revealed that the vehicle’s driver and the victim were seated in a vehicle in the 3800 block of Victoria Avenue when the victim was shot by unknown(s) suspects. The driver of the vehicle drove to Crenshaw Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard where he summoned assistance. The motive for the incident was not determined. The victim was identified as Merlin Santana, age 26. The driver of the vehicle was not injured. Robbery-Homicide Division, Homicide Special Section I personnel responded to the scene and initiated an extensive investigation. The subsequent efforts to identify, locate and arrest the responsible suspects included the participation of Robbery-Homicide Division and Special Investigation Section Detectives and personnel of the United States Marshalls Service Los Angeles Regional Task Force.
On November 11, two females, one age 15 and one age 14, who were present in a vehicle during the murder of Mr. Santana, were placed under arrest by Robbery-Homicide Division Detectives. On Thursday, November 21, a search warrant was served at a residence in the 3700 Block of 4th Avenue in Los Angeles. Two additional suspects were arrested for the murder of Mr. Santana. It has been determined that both suspects were armed with firearms during the murder of Mr. Santana. The suspects have been identified as Damien Andre Gates, Age 20, a resident of Los Angeles, and Brandon Douglas Bynes, age 23, a resident of Los Angeles. This media advisory was prepared by Lieutenant Clay Farrell, Robbery-Homicide Division.