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Ice Cream Vendor's Slaying Wounds a Neighborhood

November 18, 1994|JON GARCIA

For five years Refugio M. Garcia and his wife, Carmen Osorio, sold ice cream to the children in an Inglewood neighborhood where residents say violence and gunfire are common. This week the harshness of the violence was on display once more. Garcia, 44, was shot in the chest by a robber Tuesday while standing in the front section of his ice cream truck, moments after he sold a chocolate ice cream treat to a 10-year-old girl.

Inglewood police Sgt. James TenBrook said Garcia fell out of the truck, mortally wounded, into the street in the 3400 block of Lawrence Street. The robber drove the truck away with Carmen Osorio, 42, still inside.

Less than a mile away, the robber stopped and shot Osorio in the arm. He tried to shoot her in the chest, but the gun jammed, police said. Finally, he grabbed her purse and fled.

The 10-year-old girl who witnessed the incident said the wounded Garcia--known on the street for occasionally giving free ice cream to children who could not afford to pay--pleaded with the assailant not to take Garcia's wife, but the robber ignored him.

"I ran into the house because I was scared," said the girl, asking that her name not be used for fear of retaliation. "I've never seen anybody shot before." She then called 911.

Garcia died at Centinela Hospital Medical Center less than an hour later. Osorio is recovering from her wounds, police said. The suspect is still at large.

The young girl said the violence frightened but did not surprise her. She said she recognized the gunshot as a .22-caliber, and said she can distinguish between the sounds of different weapons.

"I hear it all the time," she said.

Police officials could not confirm what kind of weapon was used.

Street vendors and ice cream truck drivers have long been easy targets in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Several years ago, according to the girl's older brother, another ice cream vendor was beaten by neighborhood youths.

Now the girl's parents have forbidden her to go out for ice cream. Her parents, she said, have volunteered to drive to the store for her.

"I can't go to the ice cream truck anymore," the girl said.

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