Youth Is Year's 1st Victim of Gang Violence : Crime: A Placentia boy, 16, dies at the scene of a drive-by shooting early Wednesday in La Habra.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gang violence claimed its first victim of the New Year when a boy was killed in a drive-by shooting early Wednesday.

The 1:20 a.m. shooting occurred in the driveway of a small apartment complex on South Monte Vista Avenue. Cesar Eduardo Ramirez, 16, of Placentia was shot several times in the chest and died at the scene, La Habra Police Lt. Jerry Cline said.

Neighborhood residents said they heard two shots and saw at least two youths thought to have been with the victim running from the scene. Police could not immediately corroborate that account but said that witnesses reported seeing a car driving away.

"It was a drive-by, and it was definitely gang-related," Cline said.

Detectives on Wednesday interviewed gang members for information on the shooting and on the victim's involvement, Cline said.

"The only thing we know," he added, is that the victim "wasn't from that street because no one on the street knows him."

A man who lives in an apartment unit next to the driveway said he and his family ran outside when they heard the gunfire.

"He was lying on the ground, his hands smeared of blood, and he wasn't moving," the man said. He said the victim wearing a white shirt, khaki pants and a trench coat.

"I heard people start yelling, 'Get in the house!' " said a woman who lives at the same apartment complex. "The next thing I knew, the police were here."

"I've lived here for five years, and this is the first time there's been this kind of trouble," she added.

In 1991, there were 28 known gang-related homicides in the county, the same number as in 1990, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. Officials worry that the number of gang-related crimes will continue to increase this year as gangs become more violent and spread to other communities.

County prosecutors say they expect to handle more than 3,000 cases of murder, attempted murder, assault, armed robbery and other violent crimes involving known gang members in 1991.

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