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2 Surrender in Shooting at Taft High

The men, along with an alleged accomplice arrested a day earlier, are held in attack that injured three students.

September 27, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Two San Fernando Valley men wanted in connection with a drive-by shooting that left three Taft High School students seriously wounded surrendered to authorities Friday.

They are members of a small Panorama City street gang who were "out driving around and looking for the enemy" Sept. 9 when they fired into a crowd at a Ventura Boulevard bus stop, hitting innocent bystanders, said LAPD homicide Det. Rick Swanston.

Terry Boyd Taylor, 20, of Van Nuys and Jeffrey Trinell Young, 21, of Panorama City walked into the Los Angeles Police Department's Van Nuys Division station around 9:30 a.m. Friday and turned themselves in.

Their alleged accomplice, 20-year-old Kristopher James Govea, was arrested a day earlier near his Granada Hills home, Swanston said.

The trio was held in lieu of $1-million bail each at the Van Nuys jail, where they were booked on suspicion of three counts of attempted murder. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

Taylor and Govea are former Taft High students, Swanston said. Govea was attending Pierce College in Woodland Hills where he was studying sociology.

None of the three suspects had steady employment at the time of the incident, and one of the men had a previous weapons conviction, police said.

On the day of the shooting, classes had let out early at Taft High and hundreds of students were congregating in front of the school, at eateries in a mini-mall across from campus and at an adjacent bus stop.

Though the suspects were miles from home, detectives said they had one goal in mind as they headed past the school: finding a rival gang member, any rival gang member.

With Taylor and Young in his red, four-door Mitsubishi, Govea drove past Taft High at least once, Swanston said.

The men rolled slowly past the bus stop on the southeast corner of Winnetka Avenue and Ventura Boulevard when someone inside the car shouted out, "Hey, where you from?" -- a common gang challenge.

One boy in the crowd, a gang member who was also a transfer student attending Taft for the first time, yelled the name of a Valley gang that he did not belong to, Swanston said.

Taylor, who was sitting in the front passenger's seat, pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired three shots into a crowd of about 75 students standing near the bus stop, according to Swanston.

Two boys, ages 15 and 16, and a 17-year-old girl were seriously wounded by the gunfire but are recovering from their injuries.

Swanston said the investigation was hampered because witnesses could not provide even a partial license plate, and because the gang was so small that police had little information about it in their files. Despite those hurdles, detectives received some significant tips from the public.

"Once we were able to get them identified, the next step was connecting them to each other and the car," Swanston said.

"Then we showed photographs to witnesses, who identified them."

At a press conference, Mayor James K. Hahn, City Councilman Dennis Zine, LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell and Los Angeles School Police Chief Alan Kerstein said community involvement made the difference in this case.

McDonnell said it was the sixth time in two weeks that tips from local residents had helped solve a case. That included people who jotted down a license plate or who put their own lives in danger by following suspects to their home and calling police.

"We couldn't do it alone," McDonnell said.

"People are doing this all over the city," he said, noting recent arrests in shootings at a South Los Angeles school and at Dodger Stadium.

The Taft High shooting and other recent violence around campuses in the Los Angeles area highlight the challenges for law enforcement in keeping kids safe, said Kerstein.

"The campuses are safe; it's the neighborhoods we have to watch for," Kerstein said.

Toward that end, police, teachers and parents are trying to create what Kerstein called "village policing."

The goal is to give kids a safe haven in a half-mile radius around schools by adding patrols before and after school, when violence is most likely to occur, Kerstein said.

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