An 18-year-old pregnant woman was out of surgery and clinging to life Monday after she was shot several times in Los Angeles’ Pico-Union neighborhood.
The teenager, who was six months pregnant, was shot Sunday night. She was found at a park in the 1700 block of Toberman Street just south of Venice Boulevard and north of the 10 Freeway, said Sgt. Michael Williams of the LAPD’s Rampart Station.
Los Angeles Fire Department crews rushed the woman to a hospital. where she underwent emergency surgery.
The woman was listed in critical, but stable, condition, said LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera. It was not immediately clear if the woman was directly targeted, Herrera said.
Police said the shooting appeared to be gang-related. In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s shooting, the area around the park has seen an uptick in rival gangs crossing out each other’s graffiti -- a traditional indicator that trouble is brewing, said Officer Patricia Braendle, who is based out of the nearby Rampart Division.
Despite the presence of gangs in the neighborhood -- which is the turf claimed by the Burlington Locos gang -- the area has seen relatively low crime in the last few years, Braendle added.
Neighbors had different accounts of the park's safety.
Maria Jay, 60, has lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years. Although the area is pretty calm, she said, Toberman Park has been a problem.
Jay said that people often come to the park to drink and then start to fight.
"It's sad because this is a community park," Jay said. "There's a lot of families and kids there enjoying the park services."
Jay, who was out walking her dog, said she won't go out at night to walk in the neighborhood because she thinks it's unsafe.
But Rosa Martinez, 28, said she has not seen any serious issues in the park or in the community in the past few years. Martinez has lived in a house near the park for three years. She said that when she arrived home at 10:30 last night, she didn't hear any gunfire coming from the park or any police. It was only this morning that she learned from her sister what had happened.
"It's calm here. Nothing like this has happened here until now," Martinez said. "It takes me by surprise."
The park was remodeled two years ago, said Sarah Yetter, 39, who lives three blocks away and visits it regularly. She said last year her son went to the preschool at the park’s recreation center. They still come once or twice a week, Yetter said.
"It's a meeting point for our community. There a lot of families that come out here," said Yetter, who brought her 4-year-old to the park on Monday morning.
She said before it was remodeled, the park was a scarier place, especially at night.
"There was a lot more men hanging around the park. It seemed more like a gang turf," Yetter said. "The remodel of the park seems to have made it more family friendly to everyone."
But she said the sound of gunfire and police activity are not unusual in the neighborhood.
"In that sense it's not completely shocking, I guess," Yetter said about the shooting of the 18-year-old. "But you never want to hear about victims like that."
As the morning progressed, people visited the park, with some working out on gym equipment and others walking their dogs. Children did soccer drills.
Mike Blanco has worked about a block away from the park for 14 years.
"It was real scary because I know a lot of people who work around here," Blanco, 49, said of the shooting. "I was wondering if it was somebody I know. I'm just trying to find out. I'm just hoping that it's not."
Isabel Angel, 35, comes to the park almost every day in the morning, usually with her 3-year-old son. On Monday she brought her 6-year-old along with her as well. Her children ran and played in the park as she worked out in the fitness area.
"I just found out what happened and now I want to leave," Angel said.
Maria de Lourdes Baez, 45, has lived across from the park for 12 years. She said sometimes she hears gunshots up to three times a month.
Last night, she said she heard the sound of gunfire nearby. Frightened, she didn't try to see where it came from. Then she heard the ambulance.
Baez said the park is generally a little bit safer compared to past years, when many more gang members hung out there.
However, she said there are still people there smoking, drinking and fighting in the park.
"I don't feel safe here," Baez said. "I almost never go out because of the danger."
Baez said she worries about her two children, a 10-year-old and 14-year-old, and doesn't leave to go out unless she has to.
"I don't take them out because you never know when the gunshots are going to start," she said as she walked to a nearby clinic. "The truth is, it's really dangerous here."
Nicole Charky contributed to this story.