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Suspects sought in toddler shooting

An 18-month-old girl is killed in the South L.A. attack that also left her mother's friend wounded.

March 27, 2007|Tony Barboza and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Rebekah Harris strapped her 18-month-old daughter into her car seat and brought her 3-year-old nephew along for the trip Sunday night from Victorville to South Los Angeles.

They were driving Harris' friend Hollis Roberts, 25, home after a family barbecue in the high desert city. About midnight, they pulled up to Roberts' family home on East 94th Street near Wadsworth Avenue, in time for Roberts to start his early shift routing packages at Federal Express.

An Oldsmobile pulled up and someone inside fired at least 10 shots toward Harris' car. One shot smashed through the car window and hit Harris' daughter in the jaw and a piece of the shrapnel lodged in her brain.

The toddler, whose name was not released, was rushed to the hospital, where she died at 6:50 p.m. Monday.

Roberts, who was standing outside the car saying goodbye, was struck by three bullets. He is hospitalized in stable condition, recovering from gunshot wounds to the leg and torso.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives are searching for a motive for the shooting.

LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said the shooting had the indications of being a gang-related attack, but he said the victims had no gang ties.

At a news conference with police earlier in the day, Harris begged the public for help in finding the assailants and cried for her daughter.

"My daughter is losing her life over this and she didn't do anything," Harris said.

"Someone stole my niece from me out of nowhere. Some honorless coward," said Andre Finley, the toddler's uncle. "I'm begging you, please come out and say something."

Police were searching for at least two suspects, a driver and a shooter, said Det. Sal LaBarbera of the LAPD's Southeast Division.

Officers were also looking for the car used in the shooting, described as a silver or tan 1994 or 1995 Oldsmobile 88 four-door with chrome rims and tinted windows, LaBarbera said.

"This community was rocked, as it so often is, with gunfire," said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, of the LAPD's South Bureau.

The shooting shook the normally quiet block of modest family homes, where many families have lived for decades.

Clifton Roberts, 52, Hollis Roberts' father, said he was awakened by the gunfire. He opened the door and found his son sitting on the doorstep, bleeding and saying, "I was hit, I was hit."

Harris, who had leaned forward to shield herself from the gunfire, wasn't hurt. When she checked on the children, she found her daughter bleeding from the head. Her nephew was unhurt.

The victims, Roberts' family and neighbors then waited for paramedics to arrive.

Neighbors worry the shooting might have been a case of mistaken identity.

"This is a quiet street. It's not somewhere where you have to look over your shoulder," said Demond Camper, 30, a friend and neighbor of Hollis Roberts. "Everyone knows everyone."

Camper's grandmother, McCary Montgomery, 73, who has lived on East 94th Street since the 1960s, said: "This is the first time something like this has happened" on the street.

Mary Murphy, the toddler's great-grandmother, said she was still trying to understand what happened.

"She was only 18 months old," she said. "I didn't even get to know her that well."

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