An ex-con was found guilty Friday of murdering two people and shooting at numerous others on or near Western Avenue in Los Angeles in attacks attributed to the so-called “Western Bandit” over a three-year period.
The downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated for just over a day before convicting Patrick Watkins, now 57, of about four dozen charges, including first-degree murder for the Nov. 17, 2011, shooting death of Nathan “Cassidy” Vickers, a 32-year-old transgender woman near Lexington Avenue and Gower Street, and the Dec. 8, 2014, shooting death of a 56-year-old man named Larise Smith, 56, in the 2800 block of West 42nd Street.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
Watkins is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is set to be sentenced Dec. 8.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors in her closing argument that an “entire path of destruction … lays at this defendant’s feet.”
The most important piece of evidence in the case — a .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol that firearms analysis subsequently showed had been used in the crime spree — was discovered inside a shoebox in Watkins’ Los Angeles apartment during an October 2015 search, and the defendant acknowledged it was his gun and that he had never allowed anyone to borrow it, the prosecutor said.
Watkins’ attorney, Curt Leftwich, countered that “it is clear that they (the prosecution) have not met their burden” and cited “clear weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.”
The defense lawyer questioned the reliability of eyewitness accounts identifying Watkins, saying some had identified others in photo lineups showing six people and subsequently identified Watkins only after seeing him in court.
“Does that support anything at all other than that kind of testimony can’t be trusted?” Leftwich told jurors.
The defense lawyer told jurors that “the prosecution’s theory fails,” arguing that they “cannot establish … that Mr. Watkins was the person involved in these events.”
He urged the panel to acquit his client “of each and every charge.”
In her rebuttal argument, Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors that Watkins rode his bicycle and every pedal stroke constituted premeditation and deliberation as he sought out his victims under the cover of darkness.
“He took the gun with him to wherever he was going to go to hunt for his victims,” Mokayef said. “It’s nothing but hunting to kill.”
Some of the victims were robbed, while others were not.
Mokayef noted that Watkins said while being driven to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery Homicide Division headquarters that his favorite song was AC/DC’s “Back in Black” — which she played for the jury and which has lyrics including, “Number one with a bullet,” “Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap” and “Don’t try to push your luck. Just get out of my way.”
“In some ways, just calling him a bandit doesn’t begin to capture the fear and the actions of this man,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said after Watkins’ arrest.
“He’s a cold-blooded killer, somebody who terrorized the streets of Los Angeles for too long,” Garcetti said. “But with this arrest, the streets of Los Angeles become a little bit safer for all of us.”
Then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said DNA evidence helped lead investigators to Watkins, who has remained behind bars since his Oct. 29, 2015, arrest.