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Mission Viejo March to Protest Youth Violence : Crime: A recent drive-by shooting and another in Lake Forest last year galvanize a group that is pushing for stiffer penalties for violent teen-agers.

October 17, 1993|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Karen Lott heard the news last week that a Mission Viejo teen-ager walking to his girlfriend's house had been injured in a drive-by shooting, it brought chilling memories of the day her son almost died in a similar attack near El Toro High School.

"Kids can't even walk the streets and be safe anymore," the angry Lott said a few days after the Mission Viejo attack, which may have been that city's first drive-by shooting. "If we don't put a stop to it now, it's only going to get worse."

It prompted Lott, 45, to organize an anti-violence march at 11 a.m. today at the corner of Alicia Parkway and Muirlands Boulevard in Mission Viejo.

Meanwhile, the teen-ager accused of masterminding the Nov. 4 attack on Lott's 17-year-old son, Philip, is expected to go on trial in Orange County Superior Court Monday along with a Hacienda Heights teen-ager accused of being the gunman in that shooting.

William Taboy, 18, who was once one of Philip Lott's best friends, faces charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder. The alleged gunman, Li-Chieh Yu, 18, of Hacienda Heights, faces the same charges.

Two other Hacienda Heights teen-agers already have been sentenced to the California Youth Authority after being found guilty on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. One of them testified against the other three defendants and is scheduled to be released next month.

"If it were up to me, I'd put them in the gas chamber," Philip Lott of Lake Forest said. "I want them to get the maximum sentence that the law can provide."

Lott was struck by four bullets and suffered wounds to both legs and his stomach. He has had two surgeries and said he continues to suffer from nerve damage to his left leg.

Prosecutors allege that the shooting was arranged by Taboy after he and Lott got in a shoving match last Halloween. Lott reportedly insulted Taboy in front of several of their friends during the confrontation in the middle of the street.

This came after a bitter falling out the two had six months earlier over a necklace that Lott accused Taboy of stealing from his house. That incident ended a friendship that had begun when the two were in junior high school.

The shooting, which occurred in the middle of the afternoon, sent shock waves through Lake Forest, a city that had experienced only one other previous drive-by shooting and whose residents were unaccustomed to such violence.

But Karen Lott and her husband, Jeff, 45, said they were even more horrified when they discovered that not only had their son been shot, but he had been the target of what Karen Lott called "a Mafia-style hit."

"There were kids on campus who were aware of what was going to occur," Jeff Lott said. "And (Philip) had to go back to school after being in the hospital and face those people who he thought were his friends."

According to court records, Taboy, then a student at El Toro High School, met with the three Hacienda Heights teen-agers on Nov. 4 and conspired to shoot Lott as he walked home from school that day.

In exchange for the shooting, which Taboy would not participate in, the three would receive compact discs from him, authorities allege.

The group discussed the plan over lunch at a local fast-food restaurant, and Taboy described for the group what Lott was wearing that day and pointed out his regular route home, court records state.

As Lott walked down the 25000 block of Romera Place that day, a black Ford drove by and bullets were fired from a 9-millimeter handgun.

"I heard a gunshot, looked to my left and saw a gun pointed at me," Lott remembered. "I dropped my things and ran between two parked cars but got shot three more times."

Attorneys for Taboy and Yu do not deny that their clients were involved in Lott's shooting, but they contend that neither youth meant to kill him.

"Nobody intended to kill or hurt anybody," said William Signer, Yu's attorney. "They were out there to scare and didn't mean to hit the target. No one knew anyone was going to bring a gun, and there was never any prearrangement. They brought the gun along because they heard that Philip Lott was real tough. It was more for self-protection."

Taboy's attorney, Sharon Petrosino, said her client did not want Lott murdered and that the other three teen-agers acted on their own accord.

Taboy "is absolutely being overcharged," Petrosino said. "They said they were just going to push (Lott) around a little bit. He had no idea guns were involved. We have offered to plead guilty to assault charges, but he doesn't want to be convicted for something he didn't do."

Lott, who is now taking seven classes each semester at El Toro High School to make up for the school he missed, said: "I'm just trying to get on with my life. I'm still not where I was before the shooting, but I'm doing better."

While Lott's leg continues to improve, the emotional wounds have been slower to heal for his family, his parents said.

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