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Boy Shot at July 4 Show Dies

Crime: Single gunshot kills 9-year-old. Police aren't sure where the weapon was fired.

July 06, 2002|VIVIAN LETRAN and MARJORIE HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 9-year-old boy critically wounded in Buena Park during a July 4 fireworks display died Friday of a single gunshot wound, officials said.

Xavier Morales of Anaheim was at Boisseranc Park on Dale Street with an older brother for a neighborhood celebration when he was hit once in the chest by a bullet from a small-caliber handgun, said Sgt. Richard Forsyth of the Buena Park Police Department.

The boy collapsed shortly after telling his 17-year-old brother, Arturo, that he wasn't feeling well. Police said the teenager did not realize Xavier had been shot because there was little bleeding from the wound, and at the time there was a barrage of noisy fireworks.

The park is a popular spot for families to congregate for picnics and to set off their own fireworks, officials said. The gathering was not sponsored by the city.

Police had first investigated whether the child had been struck by a bullet or by a projectile from errant fireworks. But an autopsy Friday indicated he died from a gunshot that punctured a lung and severed his aorta.

Hundreds of people were in the park when the boy was struck, so police were still trying to determine late Friday where the shot came from. They speculated that the bullet might have been from a gun that was fired into the air.

"The gunshot could have come from a mile away or even from another city," Forsyth said. The child "was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he was struck."

Relatives expressed shock and grief Friday after learning that the boy had died at UCI Medical Center in Orange.

An aunt, Sulema Borjon, 27, said, "We're all just devastated. This just was not expected."

She was scrambling to help Xavier's family make funeral arrangements. "We are low-budgeted, but I think I finally found a place," she said.

She described her nephew as a quiet child who made good grades at Sunkist Elementary School in Anaheim, where he would have been in fifth grade this fall.

Suzi Brown of the Anaheim City School District said of the incident, "It's heartbreaking. Any time a child dies it's heartbreaking, particularly under this type of circumstance. Our thoughts and prayers are with Xavier's family."

Times staff writer David Reyes contributed to this report.

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