L.A. police union drops billboards after killings


LOS ANGELES -- One rests atop Vergee's Palace de Bella Donna, beyond a sister billboard for "Naked Gun 33 1/3 " near Crenshaw and 48th -- a few blocks west of the vortex of the 1992 riots. It shows a man, masked and menacing, aiming his gun at an unsuspecting woman as she approaches her car.

"Warning: This Can Be You Without the Police Dept.," the billboard, placed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, declares.

The advertisement led to criticism a week ago, when the league, the police union, which is locked in a prolonged contractual dispute with the city, put up 22 of them along the city's most frequented roadways.

But whatever one thought of them before, the advertisements became either eerily prophetic or utterly inappropriate over the weekend, when two 19-year-old Japanese students, Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura, were shot in a carjacking in a shopping center parking lot in nearby San Pedro and died over the weekend.

Now, suddenly, the billboards are coming down. Within 48 hours, they will be blank, then be returned to more customary tenants such as ads for cars and cigarettes.

Police reported yesterday that two youths had been arrested in the killings.

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