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Banned youth football league brings concerns to county board

March 26, 2013|By Abby Sewell
  • A parent reaches out to comfort 10-year-old Aaliya Mata who became emotional while pleading to Supervisor Gloria Molina and other members of the Board of Supervisors to lift the ban on her Bobcats team from playing in county parks.
A parent reaches out to comfort 10-year-old Aaliya Mata who became emotional… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Parents and players from the East L.A. Bobcats, a youth football league banned from county parks after gang-affiliated adult fans got in a fight that led to a fatal stabbing at a pizza parlor after a game, called on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to allow the children to return to Salazar Park.

The county gave the league a list of conditions in order to get their permit back. Among them: the league must change its name and pay to have four sheriff’s deputies on site at every practice, at a cost of about $774 a night.

Jose De Jesus Ruiz, 23, of Bakersfield is charged with stabbing to death a Los Angeles man, Patrick Raymond Ortega, 25, at the pizza parlor Oct. 6.

Ruiz was at the parlor with a Bobcats team of 9-to-11-year-olds and their parents after a game, while Ortega was there with another group of restaurant patrons. He had family members who were part of the Bulldogs, a newer East L.A.-based youth football team, sheriff's officials said. (The teams that make up the two leagues do not play each other.)

Authorities said the victim and suspect were also affiliated with rival gangs, and that — although neither man was directly involved in either of the football leagues — there was a threat of retaliation against the Bobcats because of the killing.

Bobcats supporters said the league cannot afford the tab for the deputies and called on Supervisor Gloria Molina, who represents that part of the county, to allow them to return to the park.

Patricia Jauregui, 41, an LAUSD teacher whose 11-year-old daughter cheers with the Bobcats, told the supervisors, “We would not have our children in this program if we did not feel that it was safe.”

Jauregui said she had never seen an incident during a game or practice, and that sheriff’s deputies had always patrolled around the park during practices.

“Why are we as taxpayers being asked to foot the bill for services that we should automatically have for our kids to enjoy their local park at an expense that you know that our parents cannot afford?” she asked the supervisors.

Dominick Prado, 11, told the supervisors that playing football helps him control his ADHD. Without the Bobcats, he said, “I will not be able to play football, because my mom is not able to take me to a different city because she works.”

Molina did not respond directly to the parents, but told reporters after the meeting that the county still believes there is an active threat of retaliation and can’t pick up the tab for the added sheriff’s patrols.

“Nobody can afford to do it,” she said. “It’s a very expensive thing, and even then, we don’t think it will be safe enough.”

Molina accused the parents of putting their children in harm’s way.

“I think we’ve given them options, but they don’t seem to understand, especially the adults,” she said. “Somehow the parents will not let this go. We’re not retaliating against anyone, but we do consider these threats to be very open.”

The Bobcats also accused the Sheriff's Department of giving a false response to a records request that asked how many deputies were assigned to a community picnic held by league supporters at Salazar Park on March 10.

The department responded that no deputies were assigned to the event, but the Bobcats said there were deputies there monitoring it.

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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