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'There Was 4, but Now There's 3'

Shooting: Siblings, family mourn Anthony Ramirez, gang victim. LAPD arrests one.

April 13, 2002|LAURA LOH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anthony Ramirez and a cousin were playing on a grassy hill at the edge of Trinity Recreation Center south of downtown Los Angeles when three gang members began chasing and shooting at a rival, who had been playing basketball in the park's gym, friends and relatives said Friday.

As the man ran out of the park around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8-year-old Anthony was shot in the chest, mortally wounded, police said.

Another bystander, Anthony Madrigal, 43, was shot in the arm as he stood in his front yard across East 25th Street.

Madrigal's wife, Erlinda, a nurse's assistant, was leaving the house when she heard shots. She said she jumped out of her car and ran to the boy, saw that he was breathing and applied pressure to his wounds.

Anthony's sister, Elizabeth Ramirez, 11, was playing soccer on the other side of the small park when her brother was shot.

"This boy came and said, 'Anthony got shot! Anthony got shot!'" Elizabeth said. Her mother, she said, was washing clothes in their apartment on nearby Wall Street.

Minutes later, stunned relatives followed the ambulance that took Anthony to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

"We didn't get to touch him," said Adriana Ramirez, 18, his stepsister. "We looked at him through the glass window."

Thursday night, police arrested one of the suspected gunmen, Jose Luis Romano, 18, on suspicion of murder.

Anthony's relatives and neighbors continued mourning the loss of the youngster Friday.

Anthony's father, Carlos Ramirez, squatted down in front of a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers, his eyes filled with tears. He held a blue sweatshirt that had belonged to his son to his lips. He declined to be interviewed.

About two dozen neighbors and well-wishers gathered around the family. Some wept. An employee of an after-school program at the park, overcome with emotion, rushed away from the site.

"When something happens, it's always an innocent person that's getting shot," Anthony Madrigal said. "This little boy was playing and they got him."

Adriana Ramirez said Anthony was a popular child who loved soccer and video games. "He was really shy. All the kids liked him," she said.

The children's father, who lives in Phoenix and drove to Los Angeles when he heard about his son, had been planning to move the family to Arizona, where they had previously lived together, relatives said.

"My dad even told us this is a dangerous place, somebody's going to get hurt," Elizabeth said.

Asked how many children were in the family, Elizabeth answered: "There was four, but now there's three."

Neighbors and police say gang violence is a part of life here.

Irene Acuna, Madrigal's daughter, said her brother, a gang member, was gunned down a decade ago 20 yards from the spot where Anthony was shot.

One man, who declined to give his name, shouted expletives at a group of Los Angeles police officers and members of the park police, blaming them for not patrolling the park more often.

Bryan Farias, 10, one of Anthony's cousins, listened to the man's yelling. His brother had been playing with Anthony when the shots were fired.

"I know," he said, nodding in agreement. "They come when it already happened.... My brother couldn't go to sleep. He was Anthony's best friend."

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