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Violence: Tragic Shooting of Infant Girl

October 27, 1994

Vicki Torres' article on the tragic shooting that took the life of 16-month-old Maureen Ramirez and the apparent lack of response within the South El Monte community ("A Baby, a Shooting and a Puzzling Question," Sept. 29) was very thoughtful in its overall treatment and quite accurate in its handling of quotes and other factual material, but neither as comprehensive nor as well-focused as it could--and should--have been.

Let me first note that the shooting did not "pass silently by in the city." It was widely deplored and the subject of much discussion among residents when it occurred, poignantly mentioned the following Sunday at the Epiphany Catholic Church and the front-page story in the local paper, the South El Monte Mirror. Only the City Council's lack of response was anomalous, and my remarks on that matter were accurately quoted.

At the Sept. 8 meeting, the first meeting after the shooting, the City Council made a presentation to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Jesus Anguiano for his service to the city and some comment could have been made at that time. At the conclusion of the meeting, the council could have closed in the memory of Maureen Ramirez. Neither course was taken.

That the various city officials who control what does and does not appear on the agenda could say, as Assistant City Manager Steve Henley did, that "no one spoke" and let it go at that, is indicative of the dismissive manner in which the council and the city staff deal with such matters. Henley's comment that the public had nothing to say because (the shooting) occurred in an industrial area was both fatuous and insulting. As a staffer who does not live in the city, his lack of familiarity with what we residents had to say among ourselves on the matter is hardly surprising.

I am afraid that part of the problem rests with the media's curious and highly selective determination of what counts as newsworthy. The general crime problem in South El Monte and the particular problems on Sastre Street have been raised on numerous occasions, especially by Councilman Joseph J. Gonzales.

Why hasn't The Times covered any of these efforts? Why weren't they even mentioned in the article under discussion?

The circumstances surrounding Maureen Ramirez's death were particularly tragic, but the failure of the City Council to either respond to or comment on that tragedy says far less about the overall character of the city than it does about the inability of the elected city leaders and city staff to pull together to address the civic and public safety aspects of such a tragedy.

HELEN LUJAN

South El Monte

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