Wilshire corridor

LAPD diver braves the tar pits and lives to tell the story *

LAPD Sgt. David Mascarenas dove in the murky, bubbling, smelly pool at the La Brea Tar Pits on Thursday looking for evidence in a 2011 murder case. It's not anywhere you would want to go.

lapd-diver.jpg"I was wearing what is called a hazmat dry suit, a hazardous material suit that's supposed to protect you against chemicals and any contaminated water," Mascarenas told ABC 7. The suit leaked. "I am feeling better now. The contact with the chemicals and the fumes, the methane gas, and so forth, caused me to get a little dizzy and a little lightheaded, but I had to focus on my mission."

He said some evidence helpful to the murder investigation was found. The LAPD would give no details on the case.

The tar deposits in the Miracle Mile district have been there for eons and captured hundreds of ice age mammals, birds and other creatures (but no dinosaurs and only one recorded human.) The thick, oozy asphalt preserved the bones until they began to be extricated early in the 20th century. That work continues. While the bubbling pool beside Wilshire Boulevard where Mascarenas dove is the most obvious sign of the deposit, it's really all around in the district. Just walk around and you'll often see tar seeps in the grass of the park surrounding the George Page Museum, on the sidewalks along Wilshire and sometimes in yards and garages in the neighborhood. The family that the park is named for, the Hancocks, made its living mining tar and carting it off to ships and into Los Angeles. The Hancocks lived in a ranch house on the property until they got rich enough and moved into town, erecting a mansion at the corner of Wilshire and Vermont that was so opulent some of it is preserved on the campus of USC.

* Added: The LA Times story says the investigation included the LAPD's Metropolitan Division, criminal gang homicide unit, Long Beach police and port police and that federal authorities are also involved in the murder case. "Authorities deployed heavy equipment, including metal detectors on land and in the tar, high-powered magnets and sonar to map the area. Video cameras were able to focus on possible items of interest....multiple items in the detective's criminal investigation were recovered."

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