City's Random Violence Claims Another Young Life : Crime: Ramon Sanchez, 9, is killed in his home by a stray bullet. He is the fourth child in two months to be slain.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Before the riots or after, life hasn't changed much for some Los Angeles homicide detectives. Another round of random gunshots, another innocent victim.

On Thursday, 9-year-old Ramon Sanchez died after he was struck in the head by a stray bullet fired near his parents' home in Watts. Police don't know who fired the shots or why. They only have a few grim details and a lot of questions.

"These kinds of things happen more times than anybody thinks," said Detective Paul Mize, an investigator in the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau. "I'm never surprised anymore."

Ramon was shot as he drank a glass of milk in his parents' Juniper Street home, police said. They believe three shots were fired and one of them struck the boy as his 10-year-old sister watched in horror.

"This is stupid," Humberto Sanchez, the boy's cousin said, fighting back tears. "Stupid."

The boy was the fourth child to be killed in random violence in the city in the past two months. Lashanique Leverett died two weeks ago in South-Central Los Angeles after her uncle, who was holding her, was run down by a car driven by an alleged gang member. The 5-month-old was dropped on the pavement.

On April 8, 18-month-old Sabrina Haley was shot while she sat beside her father in a car at 48th Street and Avalon Boulevard. And two days later, 3-year-old Denise Silva was shot in the heart when she was caught in gang cross fire in Boyle Heights.

Ramon was sitting at the family dinner table about 9:30 Wednesday night when he suddenly stood up and then fell to the floor, his family told authorities.

His 10-year-old sister, Maria, yelled, "Mommy, Monchi fell down! Hurry!"

The boy's parents found Ramon lying in a pool of blood beneath a kitchen window that had been pierced by a bullet police believe was fired from a street in the barrio known as Colonia Watts. Ramon was taken to Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, where he later died.

Some witnesses speculated that the bullets were fired from a car driven by a group of neighborhood gang members who earlier were standing outside the Sanchez family's first-floor apartment, but police said Thursday that they don't believe it was a drive-by shooting and don't know if gangs were involved.

"A car came by, and I heard three shots. One of them hit my cousin in the head," said Humberto Sanchez, 14, who lives in the two-story apartment complex nestled among mostly small wood-framed homes decorated with rose gardens.

But detectives said they found bullet casings on a nearby street corner, indicating that the shots were fired by someone standing in the area.

"We have no idea if the shooter was male, female, black, brown, red or green," Mize said. "We don't know if the shots were fired into the air or at the house. It's bizarre. But unfortunately, it's not uncommon around here."

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