Two people were killed and two others injured in a mysterious shooting at Nickerson Gardens on Tuesday, bringing to six the number of violent deaths in Los Angeles' public-housing projects in the last month.
Patrol officers responding to calls of gunfire about 3:30 a.m. found Annette Anderson, 52, a well-known lifelong resident of Nickerson Gardens, dead of gunshots inside her apartment near Compton Avenue and East 112th Street.
With her was an unidentified man, 32, also shot to death, and the injured victims, both women in their 20s.
Anderson, whose friends called her "Noby," was a "very kindhearted and giving person," said her brother, Curtis Wilson, who waited behind police tape for hours Tuesday while investigators examined the crime scene.
Anderson is survived locally by five brothers and an adult daughter, Neisha Sanford, who also came to the scene. Sanford said she was too distraught to speak.
The violence in the three largest public-housing developments in South Los Angeles -- Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts and Jordan Downs -- prompted outraged denunciations from City Council members at their meeting Tuesday morning.
Some said the crime problem in the city's housing projects justified drastic action -- even replacement of the developments with some other form of housing.
"We have ceded control of some of our public-housing projects to some of the worst criminals in the city," said Councilman Eric Garcetti.
City officials must make it a priority to "completely redevelop housing projects," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes Nickerson Gardens.
Despite the outcry over Tuesday's shootings, Los Angeles Police Department crime statistics suggest that the homicide problem may not be concentrated in the projects. Most of the recent homicides in Watts have occurred outside of them.
According to the statistics, the Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs projects together contributed only eight murders to the Southeast Division's total of 76 last year, said Det. Sal LaBarbera. And until Tuesday, none of the division's 20 murders this year had occurred inside Nickerson, he said.
Many other neighborhoods near public-housing projects rank among the worst for homicides, according to a Times analysis of homicide data over the past 15 years.
Among the places with the highest concentrations of homicides in the city, for example, are pockets of private housing surrounding 62nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard and Figueroa and 83rd streets, as well as parts of the LAPD's Rampart Division around MacArthur Park. Business districts stretching along major north-south boulevards in South Los Angeles, such as Broadway and Western Avenue, also rank high for homicide risk.
After the shootings Tuesday, at a hastily organized press conference, Assistant Police Chief George Gascon said more police will be deployed in the Southeast Division. In addition, police and Housing Authority officials are developing a strategy for dealing with crime in public-housing projects, said Elenore Williams, the newly elected head of the agency's Board of Commissioners. City leaders have also announced a $25,000 reward for information about Tuesday's killings. The number to call is (213) 485-6902.
Police said they knew of no motive. They declined to say whether anything had been taken from Anderson's unit, or how the assailants entered.
Neighbors said Anderson was known for taking people into her home to help them, and for caring for her neighbors' children. Despite suffering from cancer, she took pains to help others, they said.
"She was our Cinderella ... she was the world to us," said a friend who gave her name only as Marilyn. "She had a great sense of humor, a comedian type, always kept us laughing."
Anderson was among a close-knit group of females who grew up together in Nickerson Gardens, teasing one another and "hollering" back and forth from their front porches, her friends said.
"I would always see her there, on her porch, sitting in her chair and just smiling," said another acquaintance, who identified herself as Sarah, 25. "Who would do something like this?"
As coroner's workers removed the bodies Tuesday afternoon, one grieving woman fell to her knees and was led away by her companions.
Several people at the scene expressed doubt the killers would be caught, and said they feared reprisal if they spoke publicly.
The killers "are probably here," murmured one woman, her eyes roving over the crowd behind the police tape. "They are probably just standing around here, watching all this."
Times staff writers Jessica Garrison, Doug Smith and Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.