Two young boys, a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old, were shot to death Monday in separate incidents that left police puzzled over motives.
The 2-year-old, Osvaldo Martinez, was eating lunch with his mother and siblings in a Pomona Burger King shortly after 1 p.m. when a man suddenly stood up, walked to the boy and shot him in the head at close range with a pistol, said Pomona Police Sgt. Joann Crabb. The shooting was unprovoked and deliberate, she said.
The child was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Outside the restaurant on West Holt Avenue a few minutes later, Crabb said, police shot and killed the alleged gunman, who had been eating with a friend before he fired at the boy.
That shooting occurred after a Pomona Unified School District police officer heard reports of the incident on his scanner, Crabb said. The officer spotted a man fitting the alleged gunman's description and notified Pomona police, who found the man standing near a phone booth shouting, "I just shot my son!"
The man, whose name has not been released, held a small silver handgun, witnesses said, and police told him to put his hands up. The man instead put the handgun in his right pants pocket, Crabb said, and police shot pepper spray into his face and then fired at him.
"Officers, fearing for their lives, shot the suspect," Crabb said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by Los Angeles County firefighters.
Witnesses, who said they were too afraid to identify themselves, said the suspect defied police orders. One woman said that as police told him to put his hands up, he ignored them, saying, "Just shoot me."
A male witness said he saw the man reach toward the gun when police fired. "He went for the gun, and police shot him. He got it in the chest," he said.
Authorities arrested three men, including the alleged gunman's lunch companion, Christopher Contreras, 23, of Fontana on suspicion of murder. Also in custody were Javier Almaguer, 18, and Mario Corrales, 21, both of Pomona.
The boy's mother told police she did not know the alleged gunman. It was not clear whether she knew the other men.
Crabb said the youngster's father was out of town when the killing occurred, but was reunited with the family Monday night.
The other young victim, a 7-year-old Compton boy, was shot in his frontyard about 8:30 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who did not disclose his name. The boy may have been caught in the cross-fire of a gang-related drive-by shooting, deputies said.
Sheriff's Lt. Anthony Ward said the incident began when a white Ford Bronco crashed into a parked car in front of the house next door to the boy's. When residents of that house went outside, three men in the Bronco began shooting at them, Ward said. The residents of the house returned fire, and the men in the Bronco drove away.
The only person hit in the shooting was the 7-year-old, who was shot multiple times, Ward said. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and died about 2 p.m.
On Monday evening, much of the 14500 block of South Harris Avenue was taped off as homicide investigators worked. Ward said that the block is in a known gang area and that another fatal shooting took place there on Jan. 2. That day, 18-year-old Damar White was killed in a drive-by shooting, Ward said. But he cautioned that the earlier shooting might not have been related to Monday's slaying.
Neighbors said White's 19-year-old brother was shot and killed near the house in November, and that shots were fired at the house Friday night, shortly after a memorial for Damar White. Ward said he could not immediately obtain police records needed to confirm those reports.
Patrick Dean, 49, who lives nearby, said he had just returned home from his post office job about 10 p.m. Friday when he heard gunfire from the house. Dean, who has lived in the area for nine years, said the neighborhood was quiet until last year, when shooting incidents seemed to increase.
Another neighbor, Derrick King, 34, said residents are frustrated that no arrests have been made in previous incidents. "It has to be the same people," he said.
Respicio Cardenas, 45, also complained that arrests had not been made after other incidents at the house.
"I'm mad. Nobody came to take care of it," he said.
Members of one family lived in the two adjacent houses, neighbors said. They said the houses are shared by a grandmother and several grandchildren of varying ages.
Neighborhood teenagers reported that Latino and African American gangs in the area are often feuding. Ward concurred, saying, "It seems the lines are drawn by race, and the gang subculture is always involved."