A 13-year-old runaway was killed by a bullet intended for a gang member just after she called her mother from a pay phone in the Athens district of South-Central Los Angeles and asked her to pick her up and take her home, authorities said Monday.
The killing of Wendy Macias had a special poignancy for law enforcement officers. The girl was a candidate for the Explorer Scout program in the LAPD's Newton Division. An officer who knew the girl said she had run away from home Saturday because her father allegedly slapped her.
The girl was talking to a friend about 9:45 p.m. Sunday on a phone at 106th Street and Normandie Avenue as she waited for her mother when she was caught in a cross-fire between two suspected gang members. Officers identified the suspected gunman as a male in his late teens who was wearing dark clothing.
County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Bailey said the girl was hit on the right side of her upper body and pronounced dead shortly afterward at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Wendy's mother, who lives in another section of South-Central Los Angeles, arrived moments after the ambulance had taken the girl to the hospital.
"When she arrived she found a pool of blood and a lot of police officers," said LAPD Sgt. Alexander Gomez. The mother learned of her daughter's death at the hospital.
Gomez said the father's alleged slap was "evidently the first time he had ever done that." Neither parent was available for comment Monday.
Gomez, who is in charge of the Explorer Scout program at the Newton station, described Wendy as a "petite, a small little girl who was very excited about becoming an Explorer." He said the girl had been attending meetings at the station for the last two months. The program requires candidates to complete a rigorous 10-week training program.
"What she wanted to do was find a better life for herself and did not want to get involved in gangs and violence and drugs," Gomez said, "and it's the very thing that took her life."
Sheriff's deputies said Wendy called the LAPD on Sunday afternoon. Officers took her to a county-licensed home for runaways.
She spent a few hours there and then changed her mind and decided she wanted to return home. She walked down the street to a phone booth on the corner and called her mother, Bailey said. The phone booth is in a run-down area of vacant homes riddled with bullet holes and walls covered with gang graffiti.
While Macias was waiting for her mother to pick her up, she called a friend. That is when she was shot, authorities said.
The Newton station has established a memorial fund for the girl, Gomez said. He asked that checks should be sent to: Wendy Macias Fund, LAPD Newton Station, 1354 Newton St., Los Angeles, CA 90021.