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Shooting Deaths of 2 Teen-Agers Linked to Asian Gangs

January 27, 1994|MIKE CARLSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two San Gabriel Valley youths died last week in separate incidents after shouting matches escalated into shootings outside a Hacienda Heights high school and an El Monte video arcade.

Benjamin Barraza, 17, was shot three times in the chest about 3:10 p.m. last Thursday after arguing with a carload of other teen-agers in the parking lot of Los Altos High School, said Lt. Leonard Tyko of the Sheriff's Department.

Barraza, a cornerback for the school's junior varsity football team, was pronounced dead on arrival at Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. No arrests have been made.

Principal Donald White called the incident shocking and said nothing like it had ever happened at Los Altos.

"We have no evidence at all that there were any Los Altos students involved in this," he said. About 1,600 attend the high school.

White added that Los Altos was named a California Distinguished School last year, based on test scores and student achievement, by the state Department of Education. "We have one of the lowest suspension rates in the state," he said.

Many students and parents said Los Altos is a safe campus, but some students said they had friends who had brought guns to school, and they talked about tensions between an Asian gang and Latino students at Los Altos. Barraza's attackers were Asian, Tyko said.

Barraza was described by teachers and fellow students as "a good kid, quiet and shy" and "a cool friend." Family members declined comment, but priests at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights, where Barraza's memorial service was held Wednesday and where he was confirmed last year, said the youth had no known gang affiliations.

An Asian gang is being blamed in another death over the weekend, this time of a Vietnamese youth. Linh Bao Vuong, 14, of Alhambra was beaten and fatally shot outside the Arroyo Arcade in El Monte, Deputy Gabe Ramirez said.

Vuong was approached by a carload of gang members as he and his friends left the video arcade and pool hall, at 10755 Lower Azusa Road, to use a pay phone about 10 p.m. Friday night, Ramirez said.

Four gang members shouted at Vuong and asked him for his gang affiliation, then began beating and kicking him. After Vuong was on the ground, one of the four shot him several times in the upper body with a handgun, witnesses said.

Vuong was taken to Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, where he remained in critical condition through the weekend. He was declared brain-dead about 1:15 p.m. Monday, said hospital spokesperson Nancy Dolan. A life-support system kept him alive until midnight, when his family decided to let surgeons remove some of his organs for donation.

Vuong was not enrolled in the Alhambra School District, officials reported.

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