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Witness says she saw youths attack women on Halloween

November 30, 2006|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

Testifying in a hate crime trial in Long Beach, an African American woman said Wednesday that she saw a group of more than two dozen black youths kicking and striking three white women outside a haunted house on Halloween.

The testimony supported the victims' claims that they were violently beaten by a crowd with no provocation during the conflict in the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach.

A male teen and nine girls ages 12 to 17 are on trial in a racially charged case that has gained national attention. The women suffered injuries including broken bones.

Earlier, Judge Gibson W. Lee excluded a still photographer from the courtroom. The judge had instructed the photographer to shield the defendants' identities, but one defense lawyer said his client felt compelled to cover her face, "and that's not fair."

Wednesday's witness, Kiana Alford, 18, said she had gone to the haunted house with her baby daughter, her little sister and her friend but decided to leave after some girls confronted her with a threatening greeting.

As she walked away, three young white women approached. Two were 19, one was 21.

Alford got in her car, and as she drove past the house, she saw a crowd pelting the white women with small pumpkins and lemons, she testified.

Alford said she stopped her car to watch. The trio turned to walk away, and the crowd "ambushed them," she said. Each woman was set upon by eight to 10 people, who punched and kicked them, striking two of them in the face and chest with skateboards.

"There were three separate huddles ... each white girl in the middle of a huddle," Alford said. The crowd kept yelling obscenities, and the victims kept pleading "Stop!"

"I stopped my car in the middle of the street and ran out to the girls," Alford said. "All three girls were down on the ground."

She said a black man came to the women's aid, ordering the youths to get off of them.

The crowd scattered, and two groups of five young people jumped into two cars, a red Mustang and a red compact car, Alford said. Nine of the youths were girls; Alford said all of them took part in the beating.

A boy stood outside one car asking himself, "What did I do?" the witness testified.

The others "told him to get in the car," Alford said.

Later that night police arrested 10 youths -- ages 12 to 17 -- in cars similar to those described, according to Long Beach Police Cmdr. Jeffry Johnson.

Each was charged with three felony counts of assault by any means with intent to produce great bodily injury.

Eight of them also were charged with a hate crime enhancement.

Two more boys were arrested this week in connection with the beating and will be tried later.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Boss did not ask Alford whether she could identify any of the minors in court as the assailants she saw Halloween night. Prosecutors and the defense plan to question her today. Boss said Alford had to come to court Wednesday with a police escort after she found six men sitting on her car in front of her home. Johnson said Alford described the men as African Americans and said they were dressed like gang members.

He said they appeared to be waiting for her.

The day before in court, Boss said, one of the defendants mouthed an obscenity at Alford as she walked past.

Boss urged the judge to let Alford testify without giving her name, but Lee agreed with defense attorneys that she could not testify anonymously.

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