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Orange County

O.C. Boy, 14, Shot to Death in Street

Crime: The youth is slain by a man who may have followed him when he left an Internet cafe.

June 09, 2002|MILTON CARRERO GALARZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 14-year-old Garden Grove boy was fatally shot early Saturday morning by a gunman who apparently followed the youth's taxicab when it left a local Internet cafe, police said.

Edward Fernandez was shot about 12:50 a.m. at the intersection of Lampson Avenue and Adelle Street as he paid the taxi fare for himself and three friends, said Sgt. Mike Handfield of the Garden Grove Police Department. He was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Edward had spent the evening with seven friends at the I.C.E. Internet Cafe in the 12200 block of Brookhurst Street. He had arrived there about 6:30 p.m. to watch the NBA Finals. Dozens of youngsters were at the cafe playing video games, shooting pool and cheering the Lakers or the New Jersey Nets, said manager Quang Nguyen, who worked the night shift Friday.

But the atmosphere of celebration was interrupted by a group of youths who were loitering in front of the cafe, Nguyen said. He saw at least four cars slowly cruising in the parking lot outside.

The occupants of the cars were loud and intimidating, he said. Nguyen called the Garden Grove police gang unit, saying the youths looked like gang members to him and he was afraid they might harm his young customers.

When police responded, the youths drove off, Handfield said. He added that the police could not confirm if those youths were involved in the shooting.

It was also unknown whether any of the youths in the cars were gang members. Handfield said Edward and his friends were not believed to have gang connections.

Nguyen said the cafe had closed earlier Friday as a precaution because he felt something bad could happen.

"The only thing we want is this place to be safe, but when kids are going to cause trouble, they do it anywhere," he said.

However, Nguyen acknowledged that Garden Grove has a 10 p.m. curfew for minors. He said that Edward and his friends had gone in and out of the cafe during the evening, that he was not there the entire time, and that the last time they came in, shortly before midnight, he told them they would have to go home.

Police said they would investigate why the youngsters were at an Internet cafe that late in the evening.

"The kids were in violation of the curfew law, and the cafe was in violation of the ordinance that requires children to leave after a certain hour," Handfield said.

The boys waited outside for the cab, which took nearly half an hour to arrive, Handfield said. During that time, they exchanged dirty looks with the passengers of a black compact car in the parking lot. Police say the car followed the cab, which took Edward and three friends close to the home of one of the boys.

Eyewitnesses and neighbors say that a passenger in the black car approached the cab as soon as it stopped at the 12500 block of Adelle Street. The three friends walked on ahead, but Edward remained in the cab to pay the fare. The gunman approached the taxi and shot Edward several times.

Mario Alderete, 19, who lives in the area, said he heard at least four gunshots. He came out to the street minutes later to see Edward lying on the ground with wounds to the chest.

But neither he nor other witnesses were able to provide police with a detailed description of the gunman.

Saturday afternoon, a few flowers and two candles lay on the sidewalk where the shooting occurred as neighbors fretted over the most recent violent incident in an area that they say is plagued by gangs, violence and drugs.

"I'm trying to raise two good kids in here and I don't think this is the place for them," said Phyny Canyavong, 25, who moved to the neighborhood four months ago. He said he struggled to explain to his 5-year-old son the meaning of the candles burning near his home.

In January, Garden Grove took steps to regulate Internet cafes, restricting the number of computers, setting a mandatory closing time of 2 a.m. and requiring surveillance cameras.

The changes followed several crimes, mostly in parking areas of the cafes, which draw video enthusiasts who play computer games. The most serious incident was the Dec. 30 stabbing death of a 20-year-old outside the PC Cafe on Garden Grove Boulevard.

The most recent incident shocked Edward Fernandez's family.

The boy's uncle, John Ochoa, said his nephew was an avid football and baseball player, and a devout Christian who was never drawn to gangs.

"It's hard to understand why things happen the way they do," he said.

"He was the victim of random violence."

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