Three people were in custody Sunday, facing attempted-murder charges in the Feb. 15 shooting that critically wounded a 3-year-old girl and her 14-year-old brother in front of their South-Central Los Angeles home.
Reginald Carr, 23, of Hawthorne, Derrick Easley, 18, of Los Angeles and a 16-year-old boy from Los Angeles were arrested between Friday evening and Saturday morning, said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Eduardo Funes. Carr and Easley were being held Sunday at Parker Center while the 16-year-old was in Juvenile Hall, all in connection with the shooting that focused extra attention on innocent victims of alleged gang violence.
Lt. John Dunkin, in charge of detectives handling the case, said that the suspects were believed to be gang members who mistook Ezekiel Smith for a rival and that Shantel Smith was caught in the line of fire. Dunkin stressed that Ezekiel was not a gang affiliate.
“The investigation is continuing at this point,” Dunkin said. “But we believe the persons responsible are in custody.” He said police are still searching for the weapon or weapons involved.
Detectives arrested Easley and the juvenile Friday only three blocks from the site of the shooting, and Carr was arrested Saturday in Hawthorne, Det. Roosevelt Joseph said. Witnesses and background checks led them to the suspects, he said.
Shantel and Ezekiel were shot three times each during a small get-together at their house in the 6100 block of South Hoover Street. The girl suffered a severely damaged arm, and the teenager was struck in the head.
On Sunday, hospital officials said that the victims were improving and that their conditions had been upgraded from critical to stable. Shantel had been transferred from Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center late Saturday. Ezekiel, who turned 14 Saturday, remained at King/Drew.
At the hospital, nursing manager Mary Reynolds said Ezekiel was following simple commands and eating solid foods. His mother, Vanessa, was at his side.
Witnesses last week reported at least two men firing 30 volleys from an alleyway that crosses the front gate of the Smith home, which lies on the west side of the street. Neighbors and family members say that strip of Hoover Street divides the turf of rival gangs.
The violence prompted community groups to call for gun control and for increased political attention to the inner city. The groups have walked door-to-door in the area, seeking to calm residents, ease gang tensions and gain information about the shooting.
Kahlid Shah, executive director of the Stop the Violence/Increase the Peace Foundation, which spearheaded the community reaction, said that despite the arrests and the siblings’ improved condition, the area’s problems should not be forgotten.
“What’s equally important to me is that there’s other young men out there that have access to guns,” he said, “and no one seems to be doing anything about it.”
The group pledged to move the eight-member Smith family out of their home of the past 13 years by midweek. Family members said they have tried to move in the past but did not have enough money.