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Man convicted of 2010 quadruple killing in Valley Village

A jury last week convicted a man of killing four people when he fired more than 50 shots inside a Valley Village restaurant during a memorial gathering in 2010, officials said.

The jury of nine men and three women found Nerses Arthur Galstyan guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders, as well as one count of second-degree murder, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The special circumstances conviction will allow prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, to ask the same jury to begin the penalty phase of the trial. The jury is scheduled to return March 28.

Galstyan opened fire in the Hot Spot Mediterranean restaurant on Riverside Drive on April 3, 2010. Hayk Yegnanyan, 25; Vardan Tofalyan, 31; Sarkis Karadjian, 26; and Harut Baburyan, 28, were killed.

In addition to the murder convictions, jurors found Galstyan guilty of one count of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and one count of mayhem.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Chung said ballistic evidence showed that 30 bullets were found in the bodies of six people, most of whom were shot while the gunman was standing over them.

The memorial gathering, held by friends to honor a victim of a fatal traffic accident, erupted in gunfire after Galstyan got into a verbal dispute with several acquaintances inside the eatery, Chung said.

The gunman briefly left the establishment, got a gun from his car, walked back into the restaurant and opened fire.

He was captured on surveillance video leaving the restaurant after the shooting. Galstyan was arrested shortly after the slayings at a home near Seattle.

Defense attorney Alex Kessel argued that Galstyan fired in self-defense. Before the shooting, Kessel said, Galstyan said that he and his brother were being intimidated by Yegnanyan.

Kessel told jurors that Karadjian and Baburyan had arrived at the restaurant with guns and began to try to frighten the brothers. That led Galstyan to feel sufficiently threatened to open fire, Kessel argued.

Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Robbery Homicide Division said Galstyan was apparently tired of being humiliated and forced to do menial tasks.

Some of the men had allegedly been active in organized crime and gun running, and had convictions for fraud and weapons violations, police said.

In addition to the murder charges, a federal grand jury in 2010 indicted Galstyan on separate charges of selling firearms without a license and possession of a firearm with the serial numbers removed. 

He and one of the victims, Tofalyan, in 2009 allegedly sold illegal firearms to an informant working with federal agents.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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