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Woman Attempting to Stop Vandalism Is Shot

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

She could have looked the other way, she could have kept driving. Instead, the 40-year-old Anaheim woman said, she was shot for taking a stand against a group of spray-paint vandals and now fears for her life.

Dazed and still afraid, the woman said Tuesday that she is recovering from a gunshot wound to her stomach and hopes to be out of the hospital by week’s end. But the fear created by Monday night’s attack is still fresh in her mind.

“The police said they won’t give out my name, so don’t use it,” she said from a local hospital. “I don’t want to talk about what happened. Not yet.”

Police say the woman was terrorized and shot by suspected street gang members when she interrupted them about 8 p.m. Monday as they were spray-painting graffiti on a garage door in the 200 block of North Eckhoff Street. City work crews painted over the graffiti Tuesday.

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The woman was driving down the residential street when she spotted the youths and honked her van horn and waved, hoping to scare them off, according to the victim and police. Instead, the vandals brazenly turned on her, police said.

One of the youths approached her van and used white spray paint to scrawl a gang sign on the front windshield and right side window, Orange Police Lt. Ed Tunstall said.

The frightened woman gunned her engine and tried to escape. Before she could, another group of youths drove by in a turquoise, 1960s car with a white vinyl or convertible top, Tunstall said. One of the youths in the car fired several shots at the woman, including one that pierced the van and struck her in the stomach, Tunstall said.

The woman, who is a bus driver and part-time accounting worker, told police after surgery Tuesday that she was on her way to visit a friend when she saw the vandals. After the shooting, the woman proceeded to her friend’s nearby home and sat in her van yelling for help. A man ran to help her while a woman dialed 911.

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The man, whose identity is not being released to protect him from gang retribution, said the woman was screaming, “They shot me! They shot me!”

“She was in quite a bit of agony,” the man said Tuesday. “She was about to go into shock.”

The shooting victim later was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where her condition Tuesday was reported as good.

The attack stunned the victim’s neighbors, whose homes line a quiet, shady Anaheim street. A woman who lives two doors away said the violence should almost be expected in a modern society rife with guns and street gangs, but it was hard to believe it could hit so close to home.

“It’s scary to think about it,” said the neighbor, a woman who has lived on the street for nine years and declined to give her name.

The neighbor said the violence would probably deter others from intervening when they see something wrong.

“It shouldn’t be like that,” she said. “You have to do the right thing.”

Based on evidence and witness accounts, the youths are believed to be members of a Santa Ana street gang, Tunstall said. The gang members were apparently in the area, which is frequented by a rival Orange gang, to spray-paint their graffiti as a challenge.

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The spokesman said the department has 10 investigators working on the case.

Police were still looking for the shooter and the other youths, Tunstall said. Investigators said they believe a dark-colored Honda Accord with tinted windows seen in the area also belonged to the youths.

Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call (714) 744-7415.


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