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Gang Killing Leads to 'Lost Future'

Television: A volunteer-made video about the victim and aftermath of the San Clemente attack seeks to renew focus on youth violence.

November 02, 1996|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Three years ago, members of a San Clemente gang attacked local high-school student and surfer Steve Woods, who was left unconsciousness with a metal paint roller lodged in his skull. Woods remained in a coma for 29 days before dying from the injury.

A recently completed video about the attack and its aftermath, "Lost Future," is airing through Friday on Cox Communications (Channel 31) in coastal and South Orange County. It's also being shown on public-access channels at two cable systems in Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

Its message, according to producer Phil Martin of Coto de Caza, is simple: Don't forget the victims.

"When this first happened, youth violence was a very hot topic," said Martin, 36, production manager at Charter Communications cable in Alhambra. "It was on the front page; all the news shows were covering it. But most dealt with social issues and [with] so-called experts saying what the problem was and how to solve it. What gets lost in all that is the victims. Who are they?"

Martin's video focuses on who Woods was and his impact on family, friends and co-workers. It includes a reenactment of the event, which took place in a beach parking lot, and looks at subsequent changes in attitudes in the San Clemente community.

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Martin didn't know Woods or his family before reading of the incident. He was well-acquainted with the media, however, and realized at the time that "come two weeks or so, it's all going to be old news."

That assessment was accurate, of course.

"It was a hot issue," he said this week. "It's no longer a hot issue."

He hopes that the 30-minute "Lost Future" video, for which thousands of hours were volunteered by Martin and others, will help return public attention to the problem of youth violence.

What began as a three-month project turned into two years of evenings and weekends, but one benefit of protracted production was that legal outcomes could be reported in the video. Woods had tried to avoid confrontation with the teenage assailants. Of six defendants charged with his murder, one pleaded guilty to manslaughter and five were found guilty of second-degree murder. Sentences ranged from nine years under the California Youth Authority to 26-years-to-life in state prison.

According to "Lost Future," 78 Orange County youths were killed by other youths the year Woods was murdered. Images of 10 of those victims appear over an ocean sunset in the video.

"It's not a hard-sell message; it's a soft sell," Martin said. "But the fact is, kids are killing kids."

Remaining viewing times on Cox, which serves Newport Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach and most of South County, are 5:30 p.m. today, 9 p.m. Monday, 10:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at 8:30 p.m.

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