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Boy, 12, on First Trick-or-Treat, Is Shot for Candy

November 02, 1990|GEORGE RAMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 12-year-old boy, out for his first night ever of trick-or-treating since immigrating to the United States, was shot in the leg when five suspected gang members tried to steal his $8 mask and Halloween candy, authorities said Thursday.

Fernando Castillo Jr., whose family came from Nicaragua four years ago, was walking with his parents and five other youngsters Wednesday night when a group of teen-agers approached them on South Broadway near 42nd Street.

The youngster said he thought there might be trouble and took off his mask--a rubber likeness of a horned red-faced demon with flowing black hair.

"They looked suspicious and they didn't say anything to me," the boy recalled. "They just shot me."

Lt. Rick Morton, head of detectives at the LAPD's Newton Division, said the assailants, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, fled after the 7:40 p.m. incident.

Late Thursday, police announced the arrests of two juveniles in the shooting. Their names were withheld because of their ages. Officers also confiscated two handguns from one of the suspects.

Detectives said one of the attackers took the mask away from the boy, but before they could make a move for the candy, which Castillo said he was unwilling to give up, a passerby on a bicycle grabbed the mask and handed it back to the boy's mother.

In the ensuing confusion, one of the attackers pulled out a handgun and fired one shot, striking Castillo above the left knee, police said.

Investigators concede the area near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a poor, working-class district plagued by crime, including shootings, assaults and drug trafficking.

"I'm not sure there are many places in the Newton area that are safe," Morton said, but added that little of the violence seems to be specifically aimed at youngsters.

"Usually, kids are hit by a stray bullet or by one (fired) accidentally," Morton said. "I can't recall something like this happening in my (2 1/2 years) at Newton."

Asked whether it was safe for youngsters to go trick-or-treating in such a violent area, Morton responded, "It's the parents' decision."

He added: "I wouldn't go trick-or-treating with my kids out there."

Castillo said he was looking forward to Halloween because it was his first try at the custom of trick-or-treating.

"I didn't think anything would happen," he said, glancing at his bandaged left leg.

Castillo was taken to California Medical Center, where he was treated for his wound.

Neighborhood residents said Thursday that the youngster was smart to go out trick-or-treating in a large group accompanied by adults. But they also agreed that the precaution, at least this time, was not enough.

"This can be a tough area," said Simon Kim, whose liquor store is a short distance from where the shooting occurred.

"On Halloween, I don't let the kids come inside," he said. "There can be problems. I have someone outside giving them candy."

Meanwhile, authorities said that a 7-year-old girl who collapsed while trick-or-treating in Santa Monica died of congenital heart failure, not from poisoning, as police initially feared.

Ariel Katz, a Topanga resident who was with her family and some friends, had "an abnormal heart muscle and an enlarged heart," a coroner's spokesman said after an autopsy Thursday.

Santa Monica police had conducted an intense door-to-door search on the street where the youngster collapsed. They feared that other children might have picked up tainted Halloween candy, and they blocked off the 700 block of 12th Street for several hours while they confiscated candy and interviewed residents and revelers.

Katz's parents later told police that their daughter had been diagnosed as having a heart murmur by a pediatrician earlier this year. Preliminary toxicological tests done at Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center showed no signs of drugs or poison.

Times staff writers Tim Waters and Kenneth J. Garcia contributed to this story.

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