(L.A.) Vitalys Zemengue, 48, Died on a Street

Case Number: 2024-02354

Los Angeles County is reporting the death of a 48-year-old Black male that occurred on a street.

The coroner’s office has identified the man as Vitalys Zemengue.

Height: 6 feet / Weight: 225 pounds

STATUS: The decedent’s body is ready to be released. Ruling by the deputy medical examiner is deferred pending additional investigation.

Manner and cause of death will be added to this page when it becomes available.

If the DME has ordered toxicological screening, the next public update may take six to nine months.

RIP VITALYS ZEMENGUE (January 1, 1976 – February 6, 2024)

Formal pronouncement of death was made on Tuesday at 8:10 p.m.

The decedent’s surname is associated with the country of Cameroon, the forename with Tanzania.

On April 17, 2009, Vitalys Zemengue was collecting recyclable materials behind a marble and granite company at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Varna Avenue in Los Angeles when a Mercedes SUV pulled into the alley. Zemengue thought he heard someone from the SUV calling to him, so he approached the vehicle on the driver’s side. There were four men in the SUV, who were all wearing black with the exception of the driver. Defendant was in the back seat on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. The driver asked Zemengue if he was collecting recyclables. Zemengue answered that he was. Defendant yelled, “Get the fuck out of here!” at Zemengue. Zemengue tried to explain that he knew the owner of the building and had permission to collect recyclables, but defendant kept telling him to “[G]et the fuck out of here.”

Zemengue noticed that defendant had a gun tucked into his waistband. Defendant got out of the SUV, walked over to Zemengue, and pointed the gun at his head from about a foot away. The two other passengers got out of the SUV. One of the passengers grabbed defendant, but defendant freed himself. The other passenger told Zemengue to leave but prevented him from doing so by standing on his feet. Zemengue asked him, “What do you think this is, a movie?” Defendant pointed the gun at Zemengue’s head a second time. After a while, the passenger who had been standing on his feet led Zemengue away from the SUV while the other passenger walked defendant to an office in the building. Both the driver and the man leading defendant were yelling at defendant in Armenian. As he walked away, Zemengue said, “I could call the police and have you guys arrested.” The driver responded, “Don’t call the police. You didn’t see no gun.” After the men went inside the marble and granite company, Zemengue called the police.

Officer Ellis and his partner responded to Zemengue’s call. As the officers approached Zemengue, defendant and one of the other men returned to the alley. Zemengue pointed at the men and identified them as “the guys . . . that put the gun to my head.” Defendant was standing about 15 feet behind the other man when the officers ordered them to stop and put their hands in the air. Officer Ellis testified that defendant had a “surprised” look on his face. The man closer to the officers complied, but defendant moved his hands to his waistband and ran down the alley. Officer Ellis observed the outline of a handgun at defendant’s waistband. He also noted that defendant ran with a limp, which Officer Ellis explained is common when a person runs with a gun tucked in his waistband. The officers did not follow defendant down the alley but instead called for backup. A third man came out of the building, and the officers took him into custody.

Police backup arrived on the scene, as did a police helicopter. Officer Christopher Kelley checked the alley behind the building and discovered a semi-automatic nine-millimeter handgun in the grass beside a fence. Officer Kelley collected the gun, unloaded the single bullet in the magazine, and put it in the trunk of his patrol car. Later, Officer Kelley discovered two additional bullets in the same area of the alley.

The officers ordered anyone remaining in the building to surrender and warned that they would release a police dog if anyone failed to comply. When no one responded to the warnings, the police dog was released. The dog alerted the officers to defendant’s presence under a woodpile. Defendant was wearing a white tank top when he was apprehended. The officers recovered a sweaty, black, long-sleeved shirt covered in what appeared to be dust from wood shavings near defendant.

Zemengue identified defendant at the scene as the man who assaulted him. He also identified the gun used by defendant. Forensics was unable to pull any identifiable fingerprints from the gun or the bullets.