Jolted by the fatal shooting of a police officer Monday night in their neighborhood and outraged by drug trafficking outside their doors, about 200 Sylmar residents met with police and apartment managers Wednesday and vowed to band together to drive the dealers away.
In a two-hour meeting at Sylmar High School, angry residents asked for more police patrols and complained that they sometimes feel powerless against the drug dealers.
The meeting drew a larger crowd than was originally expected because it came only two nights after Los Angeles Police Officer James H. Pagliotti was shot to death in a gun battle with two teen-agers that he and his partner suspected of drug dealing.
The two suspects, ages 17 and 19, were wounded and remained hospitalized Wednesday. Both are from South-Central Los Angeles and police believe they had driven to Sylmar to sell rock cocaine.
"How do you expect us to protect ourselves if a trained officer can't?" asked Roberta Sanchez of Herron Street. "If a 17-year-old is packing a gun, how do we tell them to get off our property?"
Police advised residents to form Neighborhood Watch groups.
"We don't want you to go out and confront these people by yourselves," said Police Capt. Arthur Sjoquist. "They are desperate and you're going to lose."
Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who alloted $70,000 of his office budget for more police patrols, promised that his office will do everything it can to help organize the Neighborhood Watches.
Several apartment managers said they had been threatened by pushers but persisted in organizing Neighborhood Watches. "It's just what we're going to have to do if we want to be free," said Ray Rochelle, president of the Dronfield Villa Homeowners Assn.
Most of the residents came from developments near Astoria Street and Dronfield Avenue.