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Two Young Men Found Slain in Garage

Violence: Watts shootings are latest in recent series of incidents in South Los Angeles.

July 05, 2001|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two young men were found shot to death in a garage in Watts on Wednesday in the latest in a spate of gun violence in South Los Angeles, police said.

The two victims, both Latinos, who appeared to be 16 to 20 years old, were found by the owner of a home adjacent to the garage, near 97th Street and Holmes Avenue, said LAPD Capt. Pat Gannon.

Gannon said it was too early to determine the motive, but he added that the working-class neighborhood where the bodies where found is "thick with gang activity."

A grieving man wearing a tank top and shorts and standing near the murder scene said he believed his 16-year-old son was one of the victims. But he said police had yet to provide him with a positive identification.

The man said his son had been hanging out with teenagers he suspected were gang members.

The garage where the bodies were found was known in the neighborhood as a crash pad for teenagers, Gannon said. None of the neighbors reported hearing any gunfire but the captain said it may have been hard for them to distinguish gunfire from fireworks set off in the area recently.

Last month, a 17-year-old boy was killed and 12 people were wounded in a series of shootings and stabbings on the first summer weekend in South and Southeast Los Angeles. At least three of the incidents were drive-by shootings, police said.

Last summer, South Los Angeles was stung by one of the worst spates of gang shootings in recent years. Gang homicides increased 116% last July over the previous year, while drive-by shootings rose by 135% in the same month. At the time, gang experts attributed the increase to a series of factors, including the hot summer months, a lack of summer programs for youths and a new generation of ultra-violent gang members trying to make a reputation for themselves.

City officials, clergy and academics launched several programs to combat the violence, including a $14-million anti-crime program to clean up dozens of city parks, provide job training for teenagers and deploy more police in problem neighborhoods.

The most recent LAPD crime statistics show that as of Sunday, violent crime citywide has increased by 2.5% over last year.

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