A South-Central Los Angeles gang member was sentenced Monday to a term of 17 years to life for the playground shooting death of a 9-year-old boy who was caught in a gunfight between rival gang factions.
The June 24, 1987, death of DeAndre Brown, who was playing in a sandbox at Mt. Carmel Park at 70th and Hoover streets, caused such widespread community outrage that several witnesses came forward and identified Damon Thompson, then 17, as the triggerman.
Concern over the continual gang activity in the wake of the shooting prompted some to initiate a campaign to rename the park for the dead boy.
So when word spread of the sentence imposed Monday against Thompson--just five days short of the second anniversary of the shooting--residents of the neighborhood rejoiced.
"Great! He deserved it," said the dead boy's foster mother, Shirley Dorsey. "Maybe this will stop the gangs."
One staffer at Loren Miller Elementary School, where the victim was a fourth-grader, added: "This is one killing that no one's forgotten. We still remember the boy fondly."
The boy's death even figured in the sometimes acrimonious debate over the Police Department's war with street gangs.
Early last year, South-Central Los Angeles community and political leaders decried the attention, and police manpower, directed to the gang-related shooting death of college student Karen Toshima in Westwood.
While the Police Department marshaled 30 detectives to track down the Alhambra woman's killer, the community leaders wondered why similar resources were not assigned to the repeated incidents of gang violence in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Eventually, a suspected gang member, Durrel DeWitt Collins, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of Toshima, who was a student at Cal State Long Beach.
In refuting arguments from some black activists, police officials pointed out that a task force of detectives, aided by tips from area residents, arrested Thompson about 12 hours after DeAndre was gunned down.
Although the park itself has had few gang-related problems, it is in an area contested by two rival gangs, the Menlo Gangster Crips and the Hoover Crips, area residents said.
Witnesses to the shooting of DeAndre Brown told police that several members of the Menlo Gangster Crips, including Thompson, walked to a corner of the park and fired through a chain-link fence at several Hoover Crips members, who returned fire.
The youngster, who was more than 100 yards away, was struck in the neck by a single bullet and died half an hour later.
Thompson, now 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this year, court officials said. Under the sentence imposed Monday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel, Thompson was remanded to the custody of the California Youth Authority.
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ralph Shapiro, said Thompson could serve up to seven years in the CYA.
If Thompson proves troublesome during that time, CYA authorities could send him back to court for resentencing. Then, he presumably could be sent to state prison to serve the reminder of his 17-years-to-life sentence, Shapiro said.