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2 killed, at least 9 hurt in shootings at pair of parties

Two teens are fatally wounded in Long Beach. Gunmen open fire at Compton event.

January 21, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz and Rich Connell | Times Staff Writers

Two teens were killed and at least nine people were injured in weekend gunfire at two crowded parties in south Los Angeles County, investigators said Sunday.

The unrelated parties were widely publicized. Details about one event, held at a rented Long Beach Masonic lodge, were posted on the Internet, according to an official at the hall. The other, at a Compton auto repair shop, was advertised with fliers.

The first attack occurred late Saturday at a birthday party intended for 75 that drew several hundred young people to the Masonic Lodge on Parkcrest Street in a quiet neighborhood of east Long Beach, according to police and lodge officials.

A fight broke out after a group of suspected gang members entered the party, Long Beach Police Sgt. Dina Zapalski said. Shots were fired and Breon Taylor, 15, of Los Angeles and Dennis Moses, 17, of Long Beach were fatally wounded, Zapalski said.

Moses, a Jordan High School senior who liked football and skateboarding and planned to work as a longshoreman to earn money for college, spent Saturday afternoon persuading his mother to let him attend the party, relatives said. "Don't worry. There's going to be security. It's a birthday party," Moses reassured his mother, according to Eleanor Etheridge, his great-aunt.

Etheridge came to the Masonic Lodge on Sunday with copies of Moses' senior class photos and a recent video taken at a birthday party for his 8-year-old sister. In the video, Moses, smiling and serving hot dogs, spoke enthusiastically about the future. "Everybody's going to be at my graduation," he said to the camera.

"He loved life. He loved being a teenager," said Sidra Moses, his stepmother.

Another 17-year-old boy was injured at the Long Beach party. After the shooting, police bused 200 to 300 partygoers to a nearby school to conduct interviews and call parents to pick up juveniles. No suspects have been arrested.

Parents of some partygoers said there was security present at the lodge, but Zapalski said she could not confirm that.

The second shooting came early Sunday at a party in Compton, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Oscar Butao. Four or five men entered the gathering at an auto repair shop on Bullis Road and opened fire, he said. When it was over, eight people were wounded, three critically.

Arley Aguiar, the disc jockey at the party, said about 200 people were dancing inside a barbed-wire fence at the business when he saw a man walk in, climb atop a car being repaired and "just started shooting at everybody."

Dancers fell to the floor, screaming and yelling, Aguiar said. He shut the music off and hid beneath his audio equipment as some people tried to flee, dragging the wounded with them, he said.

Aguiar, 19, of Lynwood, said he was among about 150 people who were taken to the Compton station for interviews with investigators. No suspects have been arrested.

The shootings underscored the danger of gatherings that become too widely publicized, authorities said. News of parties "travels like wildfire" among young people, especially when fliers are printed and details appear on the Internet, Zapalski said. "That can be very dangerous. People will arrive, and you have no control."

Investigators asked for the public's help in both cases. Those with information on the Long Beach shooting can call detectives at (562) 570-7244. Information on the Compton shooting can be given to Sheriff's Department investigators at (323) 890-5500.

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