Gang Member Seized in Shooting Death of Boy, 10, Playing Near Pacoima Park

Times Staff Writer

A teen-age Latino gang member was arrested Monday in the death of a 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed as he played with a group of children near Pacoima Park, police said.

The suspect, a 17-year-old Pacoima resident, was allegedly shooting at black gang members who Sunday evening punched a 14-year-old Latino boy for wearing the colors of a rival gang, Los Angeles police detectives said.

The victim was identified as Alejandro Salazar, a fourth-grade student at Pacoima Elementary School. Alejandro, who lived near the park, was hit in the back of the head by a single bullet as he stood with a group of children on the street near the park at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Police Lt. Bernard Conine said.


A motorist who saw the shooting rushed Salazar in his car to Serra Memorial Health Center in Sun Valley, where the boy died at about 11:10 p.m, police said.

No one else was hurt, but “any one of those kids could have been hit,” Detective Cliff Ruff said,

“It shows the insanity of the gang mentality that innocent children can’t even play . . . without fear of some deranged person hurting them,” Ruff said.

Ruff said the shooting resulted from a dispute that began when five black gang members, ranging in age from 18 to 20, confronted three Latino youths, who were not gang members, in the 12800 block of Pierce Street.

The blacks struck a 14-year-old Latino boy for wearing a red shirt, the “color” of a rival gang, Ruff said.

Sources said the blacks were members of the Crips gang.

Ruff said the black gang members, realizing that the three Latino youths were not gang members, started to leave when the 17-year-old suspect, who was not involved in the initial fracas, fired two shots at their car. One of the shots struck Alejandro. The carload of gang members sped off.


Murder Charges

The suspect was arrested at his Pacoima home without resistance Monday after being identified by witnesses, Ruff said. He was taken to Sylmar Juvenile Hall and police said they would ask the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to file murder charges today.

Later, police used a search warrant to enter the teen-ager’s home to seek a small-caliber handgun believed used in the shooting. The weapon was not found.

Alejandro’s was the latest in a string of recent gang-related shootings of innocent bystanders in the Los Angeles area.

A 23-year-old woman died early this month after being struck by gunfire from a passing car while standing with friends outside her Compton home. Last month, a 9-year-old boy, DeAndre Brown, was accidentally killed in a gang shoot-out in South-Central Los Angeles. A 17-year-old gang member was later arrested.

Also last month, four people, including an 11-year-old boy, were wounded in Pomona when a gang member allegedly opened fire on a crowd of 100 attending a church meeting on alternatives to gang violence.

Sunday’s shooting apparently kept some local residents away from the park Monday, said Annette Payne, a recreation leader at the Pacoima Recreation Center.


“Some of my day camp kids are missing today. Their parents are afraid to bring them,” Payne said.

Pacoima Elementary School Principal Robert E. Owens agreed, saying, many parents came to pick their children up after school Monday, instead of letting them walk home alone as usual.

Owens said Alejandro’s teacher was “distraught.”

“He was really a neat all-around boy,” Owens said.