In a year when murder rates skyrocketed in Los Angeles, Lori Gonzalez died the same way hundreds of others did: in a flash of sudden gunfire, shot by an assailant she probably never saw.
But because of who her grandfather is, Gonzalez, a vibrant 20-year-old, became a symbol of how murder continues unabated, and how it can hit anyone at any time.
Gonzalez’s grandfather is Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, a man who has made it his mission to clamp down on crime. All his work and all his stature could not make Gonzalez safe.
Gonzalez, who was living in Orange County at the time, was shot after she went back to her old neighborhood and while Ernest Thomas Gray was in her car. Gray, according to police, is a gang member. She had known him since childhood. And police say the alleged gunman, another gang member, was aiming for Gray as he shot through Gonzalez’s car in the driveway of Popeye’s restaurant in southwest Los Angeles.
“It’s a very dangerous time,” said Parks at Gonzalez’s funeral. “And we can’t forget it.”
Far more dangerous in 2000 than in 1999.
Murder rose sharply in the city this year, reversing a downward trend that had been in motion since the mid-1990s. By Dec. 16, there had been 516 murders in the city, about a 25% increase compared with the same date last year.
Most of the murders occurred in South Los Angeles, and many were gang-related. Still, Parks and other experts have not been able to fully explain the reasons for the increase.
Parks suggested it could be the economy, more powerful guns, more targeted shootouts, more people fresh out of jail. Whatever the reason, by year’s end, Parks, touched by violence in the worst way, was promising to get more officers on the street. “We’ve got to get this under control,” he said in a November interview. “We will slow it down.”