For nearly six weeks he's been mostly comatose from a bullet to his brain.
And it's still a mystery why.
On Feb. 12, on a quiet, well-trimmed Santa Ana street, where many houses are pink or green or blue, Phillip Talalima, 11, was shot down like a rabbit on the run.
His family's anguish is heightened by questions of how this happened.
Santa Ana police have investigated with diligence, interviewing some people in the area two and three times. But no arrests have been made.
Someone needs to speak up, to ease at least this small degree of the Talalima family's burden.
"We need someone to come forward," said Santa Ana Police Sgt. Raul Luna. "Someone in one of those houses on that block knows something."
Feb. 12 was an activity-filled day for the Talalima family. Though they live in Lynwood, they had attended services at a Mormon church in Santa Ana. Afterward, they stayed with relatives in the North Gates Street area just north of Hazard Avenue.
Phillip, his 13-year-old brother and three teenage boys with them decided to walk to a Jack-in-the-Box on Hazard for something to eat. It was about 10:30 p.m. On the way back they stopped to look at some bicycles in the frontyard of a pink house. It's not clear whether they actually left the sidewalk and ventured onto the owner's property. But the owner came out and yelled at them over it.
What happened next came rapidly. The boys, apparently startled by the owner, scattered. Someone gave chase and fired several shots. The bicycle owner who first yelled at them is not considered a suspect. But someone from somewhere grabbed a handgun.
Luna suggests that it's possible the shooter, that late at night, did not know they were just kids. The Talalima boy is tall for his age, almost 6 feet. The other boys were also of large build.
The wounded boy crumpled to the ground next to a freshly painted fire hydrant, just a block north of Hazard Elementary School. He was downed more than a block south of where the confrontation over the bicycles had taken place and about 75 yards past where the shell casings from the shooting were found. Though the police cannot say for certain that the Talalima boy was running away when shot, many of the neighbors see it that way.
Residents 'All Just Baffled'
Don Baker, who has lived for 40 years in the same house on North Gates Street, said it's a night he'll never forget. In all those years the street had never had a violent incident. Baker was already in bed when he heard the shots, he said. His wife, Arlene, hurriedly called 911.
From his front lawn, Baker could see the Talalima boy lying on the edge of the roadway, his brother and friends hovering over him and shouting for help. A spotlight shone from a helicopter overhead to help police and paramedics locate the wounded boy.
What Baker did not see but learned from orange police marking cones the next morning: Several of the shell casings were found directly in front of his driveway.
"Whoever fired had to have been running down the street after those boys," Baker said. "The boy [who was] shot simply wasn't as fast as his friends, who were older and got away."
The wounded boy was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange--the same hospital where he was born--and remains there today. Hospital officials will not, at the family's request, release any information about his condition. But the police said his condition is so grave that he still cannot talk with them.
Rumors, of course, abound. Neighbors talk about someone running away from the scene and jumping into a truck. Luna said the police heard that too but can't verify it. Luna did say it doesn't appear that the earlier Jack-in-the-Box visit resulted in any confrontation that could have led to the shooting.
Many area residents, like Baker, keep reading the newspaper, hoping to learn what happened. "We're all just baffled by this," Baker said. "I'd like to think the shooter wasn't one of my neighbors."
But the police think there's a chance that's exactly who it was. Someone with a gun in the house who may have grabbed it on impulse.
"We have our own theories but still nothing concrete to go on," Luna said. "What we need is someone to step forward to guide us in the right direction. We desperately ask for the public's assistance on this."
If you know someone who knows anything about this shooting, call the police. You don't even have to give your name.
Call Luna directly at (714) 245-8715.
Jerry Hicks' column appears Monday and Thursday. Readers may reach Hicks by calling (714) 966-7789 or by e-mail at email@example.com.