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Neighborhood Fears Shootings Foretell a Summer of Violence

Crime: Police Chief Parks visits South Los Angeles to spur community action. Authorities suspect the killings were gang-related.

July 14, 2001|SARAH HALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two shootings earlier this week near Chesterfield Square park in South Los Angeles have residents worried that gang violence will escalate as the summer continues.

Friday morning, several residents worked in their yards, mowing the grass and watering the flowers. Others sat on their front porches to watch children play nearby. But at night, neighbors say, palm tree-lined Wilton Place and Gramercy Place south of downtown Los Angeles are desolate. Fear of gang activity forces many residents to stay indoors.

Police Chief Bernard Parks and Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas joined residents Friday to visit the sites of the shootings, which left three people dead and four injured. Parks hopes to attend several community outreach meetings in an effort to slow violence by calling on the community to take action.

In the last month, South and Southwest Los Angeles have experienced a wave of shootings that has left at least eight people dead and 25 wounded.

Parks said that although the Police Department has put more officers on the street, police "can't be at every door on every corner. Each community needs to help."

On July 8, Tamile Cooper, a 19-year-old college student, was shot several times while standing with friends at a party about 8 p.m. in the 5200 block of Wilton Place. Another woman and three men also were hit.

Mourning Cooper's death at her home near the 5200 block of Gramercy Place on Monday evening, Frederick Pettaway, 41, her step-uncle, and Willie Williams, 42, a family friend, were shot and killed about 8:15 p.m. while standing outside.

LAPD Det. Matt Mahoney, of the 77th Street Division, said the shootings appear to be connected and are probably gang-related.

"The only way to solve these crimes is for people in the neighborhood to come forward with what they saw and heard," Mahoney said. "Right now, the community is too intimidated."

Lois Baker, who bought a house on Gramercy Place 40 years ago, said she's worried that her once-quiet street will be so overrun with gangs and drugs that she'll have to move. And, although she is happy the LAPD helped host a community outreach meeting Friday, she said she wishes the department had shown interest months ago.

"Two men died on the sidewalk in front of my house," Baker said. "The violence is getting out of control."

Police Report Decrease in Homicides

Although the shootings have alarmed local leaders, LAPD officials are not discouraged. As of July 7, the number of homicides citywide has decreased by 4% compared with last year.

And those numbers are considerably lower than totals reported a decade ago, when 100 to 150 homicides was the yearly average per station, Parks said.

"It's not the community that needs to change," Parks said, standing on the sidewalk where Cooper was shot. "What we have is certain individuals who act out violently, making the entire community unsafe. . . . Neighbors need to join together and say, 'We won't take this anymore.' "

Area leaders will host a "Take Back the Community" rally at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Chesterfield Square park to discourage violence in the area.

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