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South Central area shootings in the spotlight


If you live or work in or around the Western Avenue corridor that stretches from about 79th Street to Imperial Highway, it’s possible that you may have heard about a rash of shootings including the murder of 20-year-old Rozelle Lane at the liquor store on 92nd Street at Western.

You may have even heard on the street that the shootings are part of a rumored war between the various gangs that claim the area.

Right now, those rumors are simply that and nothing more, say law enforcement officials and representatives from the mayor’s office of gang reduction and youth development.

“Our office in 2007, came up with a ‘place-based’ strategy. Gang reduction and youth development zones have been carved out based on a needs assessment,” explained Guillermo Cespedes, deputy mayor of gang reduction and youth development, and a 38-year veteran of urban development. He has worked in the Bronx, Oakland, Southern Norwalk, Conn., and now Los Angeles.

Cespedes said the assessment looked at factors such as crime, economic conditions, educational levels, and then developed 12 zones or grids that are in most need of concentrated attention.

Western Avenue is one of those zones, because according to 77th Division Capt. Dennis Kato it is the boundary of at least seven different gangs.

These zones have gang intervention organizations assigned to them, and when shootings occur, they as well as Cespedes’ team will roll out to the scene to work with law enforcement officials to obtain and verify information about the incident.

“We want to make sure that misguided retaliation does not occur by providing accurate information to the intervention workers,” explained the Deputy Mayor. “They communicate with various neighborhoods. The intervention workers, through his or her contacts work to mediate and reduce retaliations. They work with the victims in crises response and victim assistance,” said Cespedes, adding they he and his team will even go to the emergency room, if necessary.

The murder of 20-year-old Lane, is an example of what the interventionists try to do. According to Cespedes, from the information his team gathered, the shooting was an isolated incident involving a fight between two individuals over a personal issue.

The police response to such incidents as the 92nd and Western shooting go like this said Capt. Kato: Immediately after the homicide occurred, several things began to happen. I moved resources into the Rollin’ 90s and Rollin’ 60s neighborhoods to show an increased presence. The gang unit also begins heavy enforcement efforts in these areas, which may include probation and parole compliance checks of known gang members. I also contact members of the Mayor’s intervention groups and dialogue with them so that they can begin working the neighborhoods to prevent any retaliatory shootings and/or to squash any misconceptions that the gang members may have. We then monitor crime activity, especially assaults, in these areas daily to see if there is any increase. Because of the recent activity in the area, I have kept extra resources in these areas all week.

Added Ansar “Stan” Muhammad of the H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation (an intervention and prevention organization): “There’s a network of us throughout the county. In South Central, when there’s a murder that occurs, there’s a racer that goes out.” A racer is a means of communication the local law enforcement and other agencies send to organizations like the HELPER Foundation. Once it hits our phone, we put gang intervention staff on the task, if it requires gang intervention.

“They are able to identify the leader of the gang to prevent the issue from escalating, said Muhammad. “Recently, the foundation learned of a brutal beating and robbery that occurred in South Central. Immediately, the staff of the organization contacted the leader of the gang, and began talks between the individuals (to) which the incident occurred. The perpetrator apologized, and the problem was resolved.”

Muhammad noted that the beating may have turned into a murder, given that the victim was preparing to retaliate.

In the Antelope Valley, Muhammad is working to help local officials understand the importance of gang intervention and prevention. He says these kinds of ideas are not familiar to local leadership, instead they continue to use the old fashioned arrest method.

“Right now the Antelope Valley leadership doesn’t believe in intervention and prevention. They don’t believe it’s effective and that it works.” “I think over time they will realize that it does work. We are dealing with a whole other mindset (in Antelope Valley).”

Cespedes like Muhammad believes that intervention definitely does work, but that it must be part of a collaborative effort that involves government officials, intervention workers, law enforcement and the community.

Keeping the community aware can be an extremely difficult task, believes Cespedes believes needs improving on.

According to Capt. Kato, he sends out weekly e-mail updates that covers The newsletter covers a period from Friday to Friday to a clergy council about the crime that has occurred in the region.

“The clergy newsletter was developed at the suggestion of the clergy council about four months ago. It goes out weekly and is a tool to keep the clergy informed about activity in the area so, that they can help answer questions that their congregants may have. The report goes out to the clergy members and also to members of Councilman Park’s office. The (Parks’ staff use some of the information in their weekly newsletter. The purpose of the report is to push out as much information to the community as I can. It is still in the developmental stage. Yes, its sent by e-mail only at this time.

Cespedes says each gang reduction zone has a local advisory board and community impact team that meets weekly to discuss hot zones. These meetings are open to all stakeholders in the community.

Like Cespedes, Kato wants to improve outreach to the community. “This is the area in which I would like to improve in. I have my traditional outlets–Clergy Council, Community Police Advisory Board, and Hispanic Outreach. The Senior Lead Officers also begin to contact their neighborhood watch groups to inform them of any increase in activity we see. The crime information is also put on our e-policing website for the community to see. We are also pushing out information using new social media efforts using tools such as Nixel, Facebook (still developing) and Twitter.”

Kato also acknowledges that if the community feels crime is increasing, even though law enforcement might say it’s down, getting them to believe is the million dollar question. “. . . the community’s perception is their reality. I can only hope that through constant dialogue and an increase in the LAPD’s involvement in community events and affairs that we can slowly strengthen this trust.”

Shootings, murder and mayhem

Two weeks on Western

By William Covington
OW Contributor

Quite often, crimes that happen in the street go no further than the streets. But a rash of shootings covered by the newly formed Our Weekly mobile film crew turned a spotlight on a situation that needs exploring–when and how does the community find out the truth about shootings that happen in their proverbial backyards? The following article is based on the week of September 7 through our print night and is also a follow-up to an earlier incident a few years back involving racial tension. This is news we do not hear about; some of it you may find depressing. Hopefully some will bring you hope. It is not an easy task to pick up a paper and read about shootings, and it is devastating to be at a homicide before the victim’s family arrives and witness their grief.

Sept. 7, 9 a.m.  Location – Anonymous (The Unknown) Exactly two weeks ago, a chain link fence surrounding a parking lot was being repaired after months of excessive trespassing and the vandalizing of two cars parked in the lot. The lot is located in a gang-infested neighborhood (Rollin’ 60’s). The owner recently decided to have the repair done because trespassers used the parking lot as a thoroughfare, after the fence barrier was destroyed by an unknown driver. The repair was being done by a big, burley African American welder dressed in gray soiled khakis and matching shirt. Assisting him with the job was the owner, an older Asian man with a gracefully aged face and silver hair. Both these individuals were attempting to finish the job, before the usual pedestrians showed up and attempted to use the still exposed shortcut. As he worked, the welder caught the attention of a young lady walking down the street. She approached him and inquired about the welding trade. During this friendly exchange of words, the young lady expressed a concern about the ongoing repair of the chain link fence. She felt repairing the fence would place youngsters in her neighborhood, mainly those belonging to or gang-affiliated, in harm’s way. She said with a smile, individuals use this route as a shortcut while walking to the liquor store or park. She further elaborated that closing the opening would force them to use what she considered the “main-line.” When he was asked, “What is the main-line?” she responded, “Western Avenue.”

She said with concern, “Don’t you guys know last week they buried two Rollin’ 60’s and three Eight-Treys?”

The repairman, a former Avalon gang member, knew exactly what she meant. He explained to the business owner, “There is currently a gang war between rival African American gangs in this neighborhood, and by repairing this fence a lot of individuals in this neighborhood are going to be forced to walk down Western Avenue as opposed to taking a shortcut through the fence in order to reach their park. Right now this shortcut allows individuals to not be exposed to Western Avenue, where a drive-by is more likely to take place.” The welder explained to the property owner that gang members attempt to shoot rivals on main streets as opposed to doing drive-bys at their rivals’ park. This assures the shooters safety from retaliatory gang members who may be positioned to respond to individuals doing the drive-bys at their park. The business owner was aware of gang activity due to the 12 years he had been at his location; however he was not aware of any major issues in regards to gang wars or gang alerts involving Black gangs. “This type of information is not given to you by police officers or local officials,” he complained. “By the time it is on local news, it is full blown.”

Sept. 8, 6:45 p.m.  51st and Avalon Boulevard (Guardian Angels) A few miles east of this location, a youth football organization has been impacted by gang activity and racial tension at their neighborhood park. It’s Friday night, and we are standing inside a large chain link fence at the South Park Recreation center, a park that has been home turf to the 5 Trey Avalon Crips gang since the early seventies. The Demo’s, a midget football team wearing the green and gold colors of Thomas Jefferson High school are on the field practicing. Under normal conditions the team would be playing at Ross Snyder Park, located a couple miles north/east of their current location. This is the Demos’ practice field according to Dwayne Ficklen, an O.G., as most African American males are called on the Eastside by younger guys in the neighborhood; this term is also used in the gang culture.

According to Ficklen sometime ago old African American gang members gave a reunion at Ross Snyder to commemorate and reconnect with old friends and reminisce about the old neighborhood. Activities of the day included barbecue, photos and reconnecting. This is common according to Ficklen, all old Black gangs have reunions–the Pueblos, Businessmen, Slausons (members range in age from 40-60 years old) and these reunions are attended by former members as well as their old gang rivals. It’s a day of fun, much like a high school class reunion. At this particular event, the large number of older African Americans at Ross Snyder Park was observed by a few Hispanic members from the 38th Street gang and a turf issue followed. One of the oldest Mexican gangs in Los Angeles now claimed the park as their home turf. Members of 38th Street informed members of the reunion party they were no longer welcomed in Ross Snyder Park. Words were exchanged, and the 38th Street gang members departed the scene only to return with guns. A shoot-out followed. Since this incident, according to Ficklen, Blacks have been warned to not hold events at Ross Snyder Park by the 38th Street gang members. Dwayne said he and a few O.G.’s from South Park invited the Demos to South Park with their blessings. Historically Ross Snyder and South Park were rivals–Crip (South Park) and Blood (Ross Snyder). According to Ficklen the invitation was extended to dads and moms, but the fathers did not show up. This may be due to trust level. This behavior of African American males not fully embracing an invitation of former rivals was exhibited during the Los Angeles City’s Bright Light’s campaign, where gang members were hired as recreation managers to over-see activities at selected parks until midnight. Although the city declared the program a success, with a drop in homicides, there is still a major issue of rival male gang members not feeling comfortable visiting rival parks, although they had an extended invitation. According to retired California Youth Authority peace officer Anthony Johnson this type of mistrust does exist and until more funds are available to combat this issue it is beyond the cities control.

Sept. 8, 8:30 p.m.  92nd and Western Avenue (Lane Homicide) A fatal shooting took place in front of the Holiday liquor store. A 20-year-old Black male passenger was killed in a walk-up shooting. The victim was murdered as he was waiting in a green Saturn parked in front of the store. The driver and another passenger in the vehicle were able to escape. The two assailants were described as Black males wearing hooded sweatshirts.

Sept. 10, 2:30 p.m.  88th and Western Avenue (Attempted drive-by on a pedestrian) A group of African American males were walking down the street and a car drove by shooting at the group.

Sept. 11, 7 a.m.  50th and Western Avenue (Walk-up shooting; vehicle involved)
A Black male was wounded in the shoulder after being asked what set he was from. The Black male may have been talking with a female prior to the shooting, and a vehicle stopped, and while the target was focusing on the driver, another individual walked up and shot the victim.

Sept. 13, 10:30 p.m.  82nd and Western Avenue (Car to car shooting)
Two cars were engaged in an exchange of gunfire; one male passenger was taken to the hospital after being shot.

Sept. 14th, 11 p.m.  91st and Western Avenue (Drive-by; no fatalities). Shooting may have occurred at a shrine set up to honor victim Rozelle Lane.

Sept. 15th, 7:35 p.m.  86th and Denker Avenue (Rounds fired into house)
A single family residence was shot at; a total of five rounds were fired. No injuries were reported. The assailants drove by the house and fired shots; this may have been a wrong address occupants at residence at the time were an elderly grandmother and her grand-daughters.

Sept. 15, 3:20 p.m.  (Front of Crenshaw High School). A 17-year-old Black male was shot in the chest while standing across the street from the school.

Sept. 15, 8:40 p.m.  83rd and Western Avenue (Female struck in leg)
An African American female 20 years old was struck in the leg by a bullet, while exiting her parked vehicle in front of a liquor store located at 8207 S. Western Ave. The female was transported to a hospital by paramedics; she appeared to be in stable condition. The shots were fired from an unknown vehicle and the intended victims may have been a group of African American males standing with the victim. They fled after the shooting.

Sept. 17, 9:30 a.m.  77th Street Division LAPD (Seeking answers)
Concerned about the excessive shootings, our mobile team made a trip to the LAPD’s 77th division and the officers at the front desk referred us to Detective Y. Mun to discuss the increase in shooting incidents and whether the public living in the surrounding areas involved had knowledge of the incidents. His response was that the LAPD has no concrete evidence that it is a gang war, “right now all we have is hearsay.” However an e-mail addressed to 77th Street Clergy Council Members at 2:55 p.m. entitled–A Note from Captain Dennis H. Kato–lists all of the events between Sept. 10 and 17. OW’s news team had three additional shootings during the same time logged into our journal; all three were without victims; however witnesses at the crime scene did report firing of weapons. The LAPD newsletter had three shootings we were not aware of.

Sept. 21, 11 a.m.  Inglewood Cemetery (Memorial Service) A memorial service was held for 20-year-old Lane at Inglewood Cemetery, a strong Inglewood police presence was observed. The service was attended by an estimated 300 people.

These past events were not broadcasted on any news station, and several pedestrians were polled in the area of OW which is located near the center of the shootings. Most individuals had no knowledge of the shootings and felt no one cares about the residents in the community. However, according to sociologists Richard C. McCorkle and Terance D. Miethe, the media has sensationalized the problem in order to attract customers and advertisers. And some criminologists believe giving undue focus to gangs involved in drive-bys might indirectly cause more drive-bys as a result of gang members wanting to see their crimes on the evening news. (Panic: The Social Construction of the Street Gang Problem by Richard C. McCorkle and Terance D. Miethe).

The mainstream media appears to be in a quandary over this issue, and it appears the LAPD may also suffer from the same issue in regard to collecting data and stating that a gang war exists. Two actions have been observed by OW regarding the LAPD’s response to the recent increased gang activity taking place during the time period of this article. There was a significant increase in LAPD cars as well as Highway Patrol vehicles on Sept. 15 and an e-mailed newsletter addressed to 77th Street Clergy Council Members that opened up with the following: “Clergy members, this week saw an increase in the number of shootings. The increase is attributed to several incidents involving the Eight Trey Gangster Crip gang. They currently have disputes with the Rollin 90s gang and the Rollin 60s gang. We saw a decrease in the number of robberies but vigilance should still be exercised on the major streets throughout 77th Street Area.”