Late Wednesday, Stephen Murphy clutched his baby girl Kali and scrambled toward his grandmother's porch in Compton as gunfire from passing cars killed them both.
"He was still holding his little girl when he died," said Joseph "Joby" Matthews, 37, Murphy's uncle.
It was the first of two multiple homicide of the night. In northeast Los Angeles' Atwater Village, two women and a man were shot execution style.
Murphy, 24, was a Los Angeles International Airport worker, his mother's youngest son and a soon-to-be married father. The one thing he was not--which Murphy and Kali's killers apparently didn't care about, relatives say--was a gang member. He was making a relatively rare visit to his grandmother in the 13100 block of Willowbrook Avenue--showing off his 2 1/2-year-old daughter--when the shooting happened.
"Whoever did this didn't care, 'cause I'm sure they saw his daughter in his arms, and they still did it," said Norman Collier, a cousin.
Murphy and Kali's slayings were part of a series of related shootings spanning several blocks of Compton and Willowbrook, authorities said. Two teenagers were left in serious condition. Only one of the four shot was a gang member, authorities said.
Details of the shootings released by Sheriff's Department investigators were sketchy, but authorities described them as part of a "running gun battle."
The first reported shooting took place near 131st Street and Paulsen Avenue in Compton, Deputy Steve Jauch said. A 14-year-old boy was in stable condition at a hospital.
Ronnie Arviso, 19, a suspected gang member, was shot about a block away at Largo Avenue and Stockwell Street. A deputy responding to the call was shot at a few blocks away at Anzac Avenue and Nord Street, Jauch said.
Murphy's relatives said passengers in two cars did the shooting, acting in unison.
The Atwater Village shooting killed Mary Ann Wistosky, 64, daughter Cheri Wistosky, 45, and family friend Bryham Robinson, 38.
Police said the shooting was drug-related. A longtime resident, who did not want her name used because of fear of retaliation, said Robinson had been helping Mary Ann Wistosky look for her daughter, who had a drug problem.
When the pair found Cheri Wistosky in the 4000 block of Chevy Chase Drive, they encountered a group of men at the corner.
Fearing the worst, the longtime resident called police, but said she heard a burst of gunfire minutes later.
The surge of fatal shootings in Los Angeles in recent days has pushed homicide totals above last year's, inducing Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments to take countermeasures.
Assistant Sheriff Larry Waldie said that in the first eight days of August, there have been 11 homicides in the sheriff's areas, compared to three in the same period last year. Waldie said this has brought total homicides in those areas to 199 for the year, compared to 178 last year.
Since July 28, in the Los Angeles Police Department's jurisdiction, there have been 24 homicides, compared with 15 in the same period last year, according to LAPD figures.
Deputy Police Chief Peggy York said the comparative LAPD picture was quite a bit better in the first half of the year. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, there were 242 homicides in the city, compared to 259 last year. But since July 1, there have been 71 homicides, as compared to 55 in the same period last year.
The surge in recent days is ascribed mainly to gang- or drug-related shootings, officials in both departments said.
They also said they are shifting personnel and mounting special campaigns in particularly hard-hit neighborhoods in an attempt to reduce the homicide rate.
Waldie said that since July 1, the Sheriff's Department has deployed a special unit to Lynwood to talk to potential gang shooters and "anyone and anybody we could talk to on the street" to discourage violent acts.