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Suspect in Fatal Shooting at School Sought by Police

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police on Sunday said they were seeking an 18-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of a neighbor after a pickup basketball game at a school playground.

The dead man was identified as 46-year-old Antonio Perez.

Wounded in the same incident was 31-year-old Nicholas Gomez Martinez, who ran to a nearby home to call for help.

Witnesses told police the victims had been playing basketball Saturday evening at Oak View School, adjacent to a police substation and a city recreation center. Afterward the players had gathered to drink beer a block away in an alley in the Koledo Park neighborhood.

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Police said a young man identified as Noe Morales Barrelas, 18, allegedly approached the group about 10:30 p.m. and opened fire with a handgun.

Then he fled, leaving Perez with a fatal chest wound. Martinez, who was wounded in his right arm, ran into one of the surrounding apartment complexes to call for help. He was treated at Humana Hospital.

Police did not release any information regarding a motive for the shooting.

The crowded, largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood of recent immigrants is located a block behind the huge car dealerships on Beach Boulevard.

Neighbors said men of all ages gather regularly at the playground on weekends to play basketball. Sometimes the games last until 1 or 2 a.m. “They don’t have time to play during the week, so they play all day long and into the night,” said one longtime resident.

Police based in the neighborhood substation were on duty at the time of the shooting, but may have been out on patrol, Sgt. Luis Ochoa said.

Parents in the neighborhood said crime has declined somewhat since the substation opened last summer in response to concerns about youth gangs and drug activity.

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But parents still watch their children as they play in the small grass patches and plastic wading pools. After dusk, one mother said, only the drug dealers and their customers go out.

Times Staff Writer Kristina Lindgren contributed to this report.

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