PACOIMA : Gang Truce in Place Despite Shooting

A year-old peace treaty between youth gangs in the San Fernando Valley is holding, despite the strain of Sunday's shooting in Pacoima that left a 17-year-old Lake View Terrace boy dead and three other people wounded.

"It's calmer today than it was this weekend," said Alex Martinez, 27, a representative of Community Youth Gang Services, which coordinates the truce by responding--and, in many cases, preempting--gang-related conflicts.

"We went out and talked to Pacoima gang members, and there was sadness and anger, but no talk about retaliation," said Martinez, a former member of the San Fernando Flats--so called because the San Fernando Garden housing project, where the gang is based, has flat rooftops.

"In this weekend's shooting, the consensus seems to be that it's just one guy, a member of a gang from outside Pacoima, who's trying to cause problems between two rival gangs," he said.

On Sunday, David Duran, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene of a 1:45 a.m. shooting in the 12700 block of Van Nuys Boulevard, police said.

Three others--two 18-year-old men and a 22-year-old man, all from Pacoima--were wounded in the shooting, which took place in front of the Van Nuys Pierce Park Apartments, where a group of about 20 people had gathered to socialize, police said.

Shell casings found at the scene could have come from one or more assault rifles, police said.

Though authorities are unsure whether the slaying was gang-related, news of the shooting was greeted with dismay by Martinez and others who've worked to reduce the number of violent youth- or gang-related incidents in the area.

According to Detective Frank Bishop of the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill Division, there were nine gang-related deaths in the San Fernando Valley in 1994, down from 11 in 1993.

"Has the truce been a success? It depends on what you call success," Bishop said.

"He's still dead," Bishop added, referring to Duran. The last gang-related slaying in the Valley took place on Dec. 12, Bishop said. "There isn't much we can do to enforce this truce. It's the gangsters and their leaders that have to enforce it."

But LAPD's John Hardin, a boxing instructor at the Pacoima branch of the LAPD's Jeopardy youth program, said the young people involved in the program--many of them former gang members--have said they generally feel that the streets are safer since the truce went into effect about 14 months ago.

"Before the truce, I remember a lot of drive-bys (shootings), gang shootings and narcotics sales," said Hardin, a former member of the LAPD Foothill Division's anti-gang task force. "That seems to be down. I know the kids in our program aren't as harassed (by their former peers) as they used to be. It seems safer out there."

Martinez said the shooting will be discussed today by gang leaders and former gang members at a weekly meeting organized by Community Youth Gang Services.

"We try to work these problems out without knives or guns," Martinez said. "This time, somebody decided to pull out a gun. The good thing is that I don't think the sense of retaliation is there. We need to talk it out some more."

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