Sparky wasn't there that day — but I'm normally there at work ...
The shooting occurred about 3:10 p.m. in the parking garage of the popular Westside mall, sending diners in nearby restaurants diving for cover.
Burton, 21, arrived at LAX from Atlanta earlier in the day and went to the Beverly Center to shop, Vannasing said. After the shooting, Burton was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a few blocks from the mall, where he died, police said.
The LAPD has not announced a motive for the attack or identified any suspects. Detectives are questioning a woman they detained at the scene and a man who allegedly drove from the mall to LAX in a rented silver Mercedes SUV.
"The suspect was detained without incident [and] discovered to be armed," said Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
Police later found the Mercedes in an airport parking lot. LAPD officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the continuing inquiry, said they are investigating whether the man was trying to get a flight out of L.A.
Burton was an up-and-coming rapper who had recorded several singles. He was in town to work on his first album, slated to be released this summer on Jive Records, Vannasing said.
His first single, released in 2007, was "Who the . . . Is That?"
The killing comes 12 years after another shooting in Los Angeles threw the rap music business into turmoil. In that case, the rapper Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death outside the Petersen Automotive Museum, about two miles from the scene of Monday's killing. Theories over the motivation for that killing have caused controversy ever since.
The LAPD has not released a narrative of what happened in the mall garage.
But Vannasing said Burton apparently had a dispute with some people, perhaps at the airport.
"They followed him to the mall because they knew he was coming," Vannasing said. She added that Burton was at the mall with another rapper, D.J. Shabbazz.
Police officials said they could not confirm or deny that account.
Burton was born in Chicago in 1988 and moved with his family to the Los Angeles area and then to Atlanta, according to a biography on his MySpace.com page. The biography said he witnessed his father commit suicide at age 5 and turned to crime to support his family at 10. He began rapping at 12 and formed a group called Da Razkals Cru, according to the biography.
The group impressed rappers P. Diddy and Missy Elliot. They signed a record contract in 2001. But within two years, Burton -- who was modeling for P. Diddy's clothing line, Sean John -- began a solo career. A song of his was included on the soundtrack for the 2006 dance movie "Step Up."
The shooting rattled shoppers and diners. At a Chipotle restaurant near the valet area, 10 people were eating when the shots rang out.
"The customers were yelling, 'Close the store, close the store, because somebody is shooting!' " said Elsa Hernandez, general manager of the restaurant.
The center is normally quite peaceful, said Hernandez, who has worked at the restaurant for six years.
"This is the first time this has happened here," she said.
Newton Cacho, 31, who works across the street from the Beverly Center, was stunned by the violence.
"I'm very surprised something like this happened here. You come to a nicer part of town and you don't expect this," Cacho said.
Del Vaughn Walker, 44, had just left his car with valets and was heading to P.F. Chang's for lunch when he walked by a woman and three men, one of whom was Burton.
There was no sign of an argument. But moments later he heard two gunshots, then three more. He ducked and ran into the restaurant.
"I never would have expected this," he said. "You would have expected some kind of verbal confrontation."
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Times staff writers Richard Winton and Alexandra Zavis contributed to this report.
Man fatally shot at entrance to Beverly Center [Updated] 4:20 PM | May 18, 2009
[Updated at 6:30 p.m. The man shot at the Beverly Center mall this afternoon was identified as Atlanta-based Dolla, whose real name is Roderick Anthony Burton II, according to his publicist, Sue Vannasing. She said Dolla was shot in the head around 3:10 p.m. while he and another rapper, D.J. Shabbazz, waited in the area after shopping at the popular Westside mall. A friend who was with the rapper at Beverly Center also confirmed his identity to The Times.
About two hours later, Los Angeles police detained a “person of interest” as he attempted to board a plane out of Los Angeles International Airport. The man allegedly drove his silver Mercedes SUV from Beverly Center to the airport. Vannasing said Dolla had gotten into an altercation with other passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but it's unclear if that was related to the violence.]
[Updated at 5:15 p.m.: Police have arrested one "person of interest" in connection with the shooting but were looking for a second suspect.]
[Updated at 5:40 p.m.: The arrested suspect, who fled from the mall in a silver Mercedes, was detained at Los Angeles International Airport while trying to board a flight. Police said the shooting took place in the valet waiting area of the mall].
The shooting occurred just after 3 p.m. at the La Cienega Boulevard entrance to the popular Westside shopping center. All entrances and exits to the popular Westside shopping mall were sealed off as police swarmed the scene.
LAPD officials said that officers were sent to the mall on a report of a group fight, possibly involving a knife. LAPD Sgt. Ronnie Crump said two suspects ran in the direction of Beverly Hills.
At a Chipotle restaurant in the mall, several people were eating when the shots rang out.
“The customers were yelling 'close the store, close the store, because somebody is shooting,' ” said Elsa Hernandez, general manager of the restaurant.
An employee who was behind the restaurant, near the mall’s valet parking service, saw the tail end of the dispute, Hernandez said. “He saw a lady ... shooting a handgun,” Hernandez said.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Sam Quinones
Photos: Shoppers leave the parking structure at the Beverly Center (top photo) as LAPD personnel investigate the scene of the Monday afternoon shooting. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times
Police today identified the man who allegedly shot and killed Atlanta rapper Dolla at the Beverly Center as Aubrey Louis Berry, 23, of Georgia.
Berry was arrested on suspicion of murder Monday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport as he attempted to board a plane, said officials with the Los Angeles Police Department. He is accused of killing up-and-coming rap artist Roderick Anthony Burton II, 21, known as Dolla, who died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Berry was being held on $1-million bail. He was identified as one of two suspects who allegedly fled from the mall in a silver Mercedes-Benz SUV after the 3 p.m. shooting at the La Cienega Boulevard entrance of the Westside shopping center.
Burton was shot in the head as he and another rapper, D.J. Shabbazz, waited in the valet parking area, according to his publicist, Sue Vannasing. She said Burton had been involved in an altercation with other passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but it was unclear if that was related to the shooting.
LAPD officers were called to the mall on a report of a group fight, possibly involving a knife. Authorities said two suspects were seen fleeing before officers arrived.
-- Ruben Vives