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Officer Says Teen Admitted Fatal Shooting

October 27, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

A 17-year-old gang member charged with killing a 10-year-old boy who was playing near Pacoima Park confessed that he accidentally shot the youngster while firing at rival gang members, a police officer testified Monday.

San Fernando Municipal Judge Paul I. Metzler ordered that the teen-ager be tried on one count of murder in the July 19 killing of Alejandro Salazar. The teen-ager already had been ordered to stand trial as an adult.

A bullet struck the boy in the back of the head as he stood with a group of children near the park.

Los Angeles Police Officer Jay St. John testified during the preliminary hearing that shortly after his arrest on July 20, the Pacoima teen-ager said a gunshot residue test to determine whether he had recently fired a gun was not necessary. St. John quoted the teen-ager as saying, "I shot the kid."

The teen-ager then waived his right to remain silent and confessed on a tape recording, St. John said.

Deputy Public Defender James M. Coady said the teen-ager, who pleaded not guilty to the murder charge on Aug. 26, shot Alejandro but was not guilty of murder. Coady said he will seek to have the charge reduced to manslaughter.

"There's no question that he shot the 10-year-old," Coady said. "The question is what his intent was. If he thought he was coming to the aid of someone, then it's manslaughter."

St. John testified that the teen-ager said several small Latino children had requested him to defend them against a group of five black gang members. The blacks, members of a rival gang, had stolen a hat from one of the Latino boys and punched him because he was wearing red sweat pants, authorities were told. Red is the rival gang's color, St. John said.

St. John said the teen-ager told him that he was carrying a .25-caliber automatic pistol when the blacks came back to the park and returned the hat. As the blacks were leaving the park in their car, the teen-ager fired two shots at the departing vehicle, St. John said. One of the shots struck Alejandro, killing him, St. John said.

If the teen-ager is convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison, Coady said. If he is convicted of manslaughter, he could be sentenced to 13 years. However, if he is convicted before he turns 18 on Sept. 7, he would be sentenced to California Youth Authority until his 25th birthday and then serve the remainder of his term in state prison, Coady said.

The teen-ager was being held in Eastlake Juvenile Hall unable to post $250,000 bail. He is scheduled for a Superior Court arraignment Nov. 9.

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