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Gang Members Crash Party, Kill Senior Honor Student

February 18, 1996|MACK REED and ERIC SLATER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Gang members shot and killed a Cathedral High School honor student in the Monterey Hills area early Saturday morning after they crashed a party in search of rivals and began fighting with guests, police said.

Rather than cancel a school dance scheduled for Saturday night, Cathedral High officials turned it into a benefit for the family of the slain student.

School officials and the Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the dead boy as Martin Aceves, 17, an outgoing scorekeeper for Cathedral who had just been accepted to Cal State Northridge.

Police said the victim died at the scene shortly after a gang dispute in which he got caught up exploded in gunplay.

Another party-goer, Anthony John Moscato, 20, was shot in the hand as he tried to flee the home in the 5800 block of Ebey Avenue in northeast Los Angeles, said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Alex Salazar. Moscato was listed in stable condition at County-USC Medical Center late Saturday.

The violence began soon after midnight, Salazar said, "when several gang members walked in and commenced to confront several party-goers regarding gang affiliation."

"They were inquiring . . . if anyone there was gang-affiliated: 'Where you from?' That kind of thing," Salazar said. Neither victim was believed to have gang ties, police said.

The suspects fled after the shooting and remained at large Saturday evening, police said.

Cathedral High senior James Merchant, 17, said the fight began in fisticuffs between local gang members and party-goers, who included two of Aceves' friends.

When Aceves tried to break it up, the fighters began beating him, Merchant said. The brawl spilled out onto the driveway and knocked over a cloth canopy that collapsed onto the boys like a deflated tent, shielding them from view, he said.

"Then shots rang out, and everybody got down," Merchant said. There were four shots, then a pause, then about six more, he said.

Shot in the chest, Aceves was still conscious when friends tried to administer CPR, but he soon passed out, Merchant said. "Then I checked his pulse, and he was gone," he said.

Many of the 420 students at Cathedral, an all-male Catholic school, drifted onto the campus throughout the day Saturday to pay their respects, said campus ministry director Chris Martin.

"He was a real joker, and pretty enthusiastic," Martin said. "He was just a wealth of knowledge about sports."

Merchant recalled Aceves as an aggressive player on the basketball court who good-naturedly badgered him to play better.

"He was always an outgoing guy," Merchant said. "He was always there for people."

He said students planned to give Aceves' family the proceeds from the $6-a-ticket dance.

Teachers set up a small shrine to Aceves on Saturday, posting blank paper on the walls where students could leave messages, he said.

"He had kind of a little dance that he did to make people laugh," Martin said. "One of the boys wrote, 'Martin, do your dance in heaven.' "

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