Death at Close Range

PAGERS began sounding throughout the first floor of Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center shortly after midnight. "Gunshot wound to the head. Male, 33 years old."

A dozen doctors, nurses and technicians filled the trauma bay. They lined up in a semicircle, waiting to receive a South-Central Los Angeles barber critically wounded by a bullet fired at close range.

King/Drew workers see the agony of black homicides every day.

Young black men in Los Angeles County are killed at four times the rate of Latinos, 18 times the rate of white men.

People think, "Why should I have any compassion? They are killing each other," said Dr. Jean-Claude Henry, trauma director at King/Drew. "But I treat them. I get my hands in their blood, inside their chests. And it's the same life .... And when they die, it's the same grief."

On Nov. 17, King/Drew surgeons tried to save John Smith Jr.


Photos and story, see pages B4-5.

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