Long Beach police arrested eight alleged gang members Tuesday in connection with the Sunday night killing of a schoolteacher who was caught in the cross-fire of a shooting as she and her son drove to a laundry.
Police allege that the suspects were exchanging fire near Alamitos Avenue and 15th Street when Patricia Anne Miller, 52, and her 12-year-old son, Michael, were passing by in their car. Police said that Miller was struck in the abdomen and that her son was shot in the shoulder. The teacher's brother Hayward said Michael rolled out of the car after being hit.
According to witnesses, Patricia managed to crawl out of the vehicle and pull herself onto her son to shield him from further gunshots, crying: "God take me. Don't take my son!"
The two were transported to separate hospitals; Miller died at 11:13 p.m. Sunday, said Police Chief Anthony Batts. Michael is recovering.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 27, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Long Beach shooting -- An article in Wednesday's California section incorrectly reported that a Long Beach teacher and her son were caught in the cross-fire of a gang-related shooting. In fact, police believe only one person was firing shots at the time, hitting Patricia Anne Miller and her son, Michael.
"I am truly outraged, outraged, that this has happened -- the assassination of a single mother who did nothing to no one," Batts said.
Melvin James Jones, 22, of Compton was in police custody less than an hour after the shooting. He was later booked on suspicion of murder and held in lieu of $1-million bail, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Detectives arrested seven other people, who were booked on unrelated charges but were believed to have been involved in the shooting, said Long Beach Police Cmdr. Bill Blair, who is in charge of his department's Gang and Violent Crimes Division.
Family members said Miller had taught for 30 years, most recently at Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles as a substitute.
Hayward Miller, a lieutenant in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, spoke fondly of his sister, describing her as a dedicated mother.
"She was a very vibrant individual and touched the lives of so many people," he said. "If you met her, you would remember her. Certainly, I've seen and been on the other side of this equation, where there's been ... devastation brought to family members. But being now a victim of that, it's very difficult."
Bill Miller, another brother, hopes to adopt Michael.
At Gompers, where Michael was a sixth-grader, Principal Audrey Criss remembered the teacher as involved and upbeat.
Long Beach police said Miller's death makes 11 gang-related homicides this year. Despite a new gang detail and increased police presence in the area, neighbors said violence continues. "It's not surprising," said Ruby Ortiz, who added that she has been trying to move away for three years.
Dorothy Jackson, 75, who goes to a hairdresser near the site of Sunday's shooting, said the neighborhood is made up primarily of hard-working people who don't make trouble.
"It's always an innocent person that gets killed," she said.