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Buena Park Chief Asks Fireworks Sales Ban

Safety: City posts reward for information about the death of a boy shot while watching a display.


Buena Park's police chief on Wednesday called for a ban on fireworks sales in the city, citing a chaotic Fourth of July that he said could have contributed to the death of a 9-year-old boy hit by a falling bullet.

Xavier Morales of Anaheim was struck by a .22- or .25-caliber bullet as he watched fireworks with family and friends at a local park. Police suspect the bullet was fired into the air by someone nearby.

Buena Park is one of five Orange County cities that allow the sale of fireworks. Police Chief Gary Hicken said this has made the city a holiday magnet for residents from nearby communities, where such fireworks are prohibited. In addition to setting off legal "safe and sane" fireworks, some people also exploded illegal varieties, such as bottle rockets, police said.

"The pandemonium from the legal as well as illegal in the area made it possible for someone to shoot the gun and kill this little boy without being discovered because of the atmosphere in the park," Hicken said.

Buena Park police received more than 130 calls about fireworks on the holiday. "We were barely able to keep up from call to call. It was out of control," Hicken said. There have always been problems, he said, "but it has escalated every year."

Police announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever fired the fatal shot.

Buena Park police and a Los Angeles County sheriff's crime search team found the small-caliber bullet Monday nine feet from where Xavier was thought to have been shot, said Sgt. Rich Pena.

Three vehicles parked nearby were also hit by gunfire. Police are investigating the case as a homicide. Officials hope to find someone who videotaped the Boisseranc Park fireworks or who witnessed shots being fired.

The reward money will come from Buena Park's general fund and was approved by Mayor Patsy Marshall and the City Council late Tuesday night, said Pena.

"It would be nice to catch whoever did it," said Xavier's 17 year-old brother, Arturo, with tears in his eyes. "It wouldn't make me feel any better ... because it won't bring my brother back, but just to know that it won't happen again, at least from that person, would help that much."

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