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Slain uncle drew bullets away from nephew in 49th Street Massacre

September 07, 2013|By Jack Leonard
  • Charles Ray Smith reacts as his death sentence is read.
Charles Ray Smith reacts as his death sentence is read. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The 12-year-old boy lay bleeding on the sidewalk as two gunmen sprayed the South Los Angeles street with bullets from AK-47 rifles.

The child’s uncle Larry gripped his hand. Everything will be OK, the uncle said.

As the continuing gunfire hit closer, Larry told his nephew he had to leave. He had a final request – that the boy look after his young children in the future. Then Larry bolted, drawing the shooters away from his wounded nephew.

Moments later, Larry lay on the ground. He had been fatally shot.

The boy, the only survivor of what came to be known as the 49th Street Massacre, sat in court earlier this week as a Los Angeles County judge sentenced to death one of two men convicted of carrying out an act of violence that shocked even a city as hardened to violence as Los Angeles.

Sergio Marcial Jr. was shot in the groin and thigh in the 2006 attack and spent years dealing with the emotional and physical impact. Killed in the shooting were his brother David, 10; his uncle Larry Marcial, 22; and his neighbor Luis Cervantes, 17.

Sergio and David had been outside riding their bicycles on a Friday afternoon under the watchful eye of their uncle when the gunmen pulled up and suddenly opened fire.

“He had his whole life ahead of him,” Christina Marcial, Sergio’s mother, said tearfully in court on Friday as she spoke of her dead son, David. “His not being with us just breaks my heart.”

Sergio Marcial Jr. did not address the court on Friday but testified earlier this year about his relationship with his younger brother and what happened on that sunny afternoon of June 30, 2006.

Marcial said he and his younger brother shared a bedroom and were very close. The boys enjoyed playing soccer with their uncle Larry, Marcial said.

On the day of the shooting, Larry had promised the boys’ father that he would look after them outside as they rode their bicycles on the sidewalk.

Marcial was looking toward his house when the shooting started. He saw a large gun. Suddenly he was on the ground, injured, with his uncle holding his hand.

The next time Marcial saw his uncle, Larry was lying on the ground, not moving.

In the hospital, his parents told him that David and Larry were dead.

“It hurt me inside knowing that my brother and my uncle were gone,” Marcial said softly in court. “I feel lonely sometimes….Me and him used to do everything together.”

The attack was one of several high-profile gang crimes that initially stoked fears among some of a possible race war. Witnesses described the gunmen as black; the victims were Latino.

But prosecutors argued that the motive for the killings had less to do with race and more with local gang rivalries. They argued that Charles Ray Smith and Ryan T. Moore mistook the victims for rival gang members in a tit-for-tat feud over turf, drugs and pride.

None of the victims had any gang connections. 

Moore was convicted during a separate trial and sentenced to death. Smith was sentenced to death on Friday.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard

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