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Killer Mistook Teen for Rival, Police Say

The boy, 14, described as 'a good kid,' was at an L.A. carnival when a suspected gang member shot him.

November 17, 2005|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A 14-year-old boy fatally shot Sunday night at the entrance to a community carnival in Jefferson Park was "a good kid" whom the gunman appeared to have mistaken for a gang rival, a police detective said Wednesday.

Police Det. Don Richards, who is investigating the slaying, said this case had been particularly hard for his squad to deal with because it involved a teenager with no criminal history who was gunned down while simply attending an evening festival near his house.

"It is the age-old story," he said -- a "good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time."

William Cox and a teenage friend were outside the carnival about 7 p.m. when a man who police believe is a gang member walked up, spoke a few words and opened fire.

William, a high school freshman, was hit in the upper body and fled. He crumpled to the ground 100 feet away, hitting his head on the curb near the corner of 2nd Avenue and Rodeo Road. The gunman and some associates ran east on Rodeo Road.

The friend, whom police did not identify out of concern for his safety, is in stable condition and is expected to survive.

"These are good kids from good families out having a good time," Richards said. "This is an act by the most cowardly of individuals: shooting a kid who was not able to defend himself."

The killing comes as homicides overall are declining citywide and in Southwest Los Angeles. As of the weekend, officials had recorded 46 homicides in the Southwest Division, six fewer than at this point last year.

When William and his friend, who both live nearby, did not come home Sunday, William's mother went looking for him, only to discover the horrific crime scene, police said.

Friends and neighbors tried to comfort her. "She was beyond distraught," Richards said.

William recently began playing football at his high school. His family Wednesday was making burial arrangements.

"It is terrible. These are just a couple of kids doing what lots of kids do: going to a neighborhood carnival," said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon. "We hope people in the area realize what these gang members are responsible for here and come forward and help."

Capt. James Craig, who oversees the Southwest Division, which includes the carnival site, said he expected his detectives to have an idea of the gunman's identity within three days. "We are making progress and have some solid leads."

Craig said the area had a couple of feuding gangs, but it wasn't clear whether William's slaying was connected to that conflict.

For too many innocent young males in South Los Angeles, Craig said, there are those moments when a gang member asks where they are from or a similar question with deadly consequences. "It is a no-win situation," he said.

Detectives said people at the carnival fled when shots were fired.

Anyone with information is asked to contact LAPD homicide detectives at (213) 485-2417.

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