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Case of Slain Teen Cracked by Oft-Criticized Quality of Life Arrest

By Eric Richardson with Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, July 27, 2009, at 02:11PM
IMGP3065 Ed Fuentes

LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz talks to reporters outside Parker Center this morning.

A 50-year-old man with a history of violent crime and drug abuse was charged this morning in the death of Lily Burk, a 17-year-old whose body and car were found at 5th and Alameda on Saturday morning.

The suspect, Charlie Samuel, was in custody hours before Burk was found. Police officers arrested Samuel on Friday night for drinking in public and possession of drug paraphernalia, the sort of "quality of life" offenses targeted by LAPD's Safer Cities initiative.

At a Monday morning press conference, LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz offered a timeline for the tragic event.

Burk encountered Samuel near Southwestern Law School, located on Wilshire west of Downtown, at approximately 3pm on Friday afternoon. A half hour later, Burk unsucessfully attempted to withdraw money at a Downtown ATM and then called her parents asking how to access funds using her credit card.

At 5:25pm, Samuel was arrested at 3rd and Los Angeles, just a few blocks away from where Burk was to be found on Saturday morning at 6:15am.

Samuel's prints were matched against those found in Burk's car, and on Sunday he was re-booked on suspicious of the girl's murder.

While the fortunate arrest provided a quick turn in the case of Burk's tragic killing, LAPD has been criticized in recent years for just these sorts of arrests.

Advocacy groups such as the ACLU and Los Angeles Community Action Network have charged that the department was criminalizing homelessness by arresting those in Skid Row for menial offenses such as drinking in public.

Just two weeks ago the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty named Los Angeles the meanest city toward the homeless, in large part for the tactics used by Safer Cities.

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