A 17-year-old gang member who authorities believe intentionally shot and killed a 3-year-old girl at point-blank range in Southwest Los Angeles last month was arrested Tuesday in San Bernardino.
The arrest, which was prompted by information from a police hotline tip, came a day after the girl’s father, Cesar Avila, who was wounded in the shooting, made a public appeal for help in finding the suspect.
Joined by LAPD Chief William J. Bratton at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Avila expressed his thanks for the public’s assistance.
“Now we at least know these criminals are no longer out there harming other people,” he said.
An FBI-Los Angeles Police Department task force picked up the suspect, Jonathan D. Banks of Los Angeles, about 2 p.m. The site mentioned in the hotline call “was put under surveillance and the suspect was arrested without incident,” said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who commands the LAPD’s South Bureau.
Beck said the intentional nature of the crime seemed to galvanize the community to help: “The senseless intentional murder of a 3-year-old is beyond even what I’ve seen in my 30 years of experience.”
Police believe that Banks jumped out of a vehicle Sept. 24 and approached the young victim, Kaitlyn Avila; her father; and her 6-year-old sister as they were getting out of a car outside their Pinafore Street apartment building in Baldwin Village. The family had just returned from a Sunday afternoon outing to a fast-food restaurant.
Banks allegedly shot and wounded the father, a glass worker, wrongly believing that he was a member of a rival gang. Authorities said Banks then aimed at Kaitlyn and shot her once in the chest.
Authorities said this week that the gunman intended to shoot the child and did not, as originally believed, strike her inadvertently while firing several shots at her father.
Community leaders Tuesday praised the capture.
“This horrendous shooting” threatened to escalate tensions between blacks and Latinos, said activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who along with other leaders in the African American community, as well as Latino leaders, joined the LAPD and the Avila family in announcing the arrest.
The Avilas are Latino; the suspects, Banks and his alleged driver, Laron Lee Larrimore, are African American. Larrimore was arrested Friday.
“The arrest of the second suspect will help calm tensions, alleviate the fears of residents over their safety and help promote community peace,” Hutchinson said.
Kaitlyn’s parents attended the news conference only hours after burying their daughter. Both were wearing white T-shirts adorned with Kaitlyn’s photo on the front and farewell messages to her on the back. “We will always miss you,” read the message on the shirt worn by the girl’s mother.
Both Banks and Larrimore allegedly shouted gang slogans before the gunman fired his 9-millimeter handgun.
The shooting scene in Baldwin Village, a neighborhood of less than a square mile between La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard off Coliseum Street, has a history of gang problems and a rivalry between the Black P-Stones, a mostly black gang, and the 18th Street gang, which is mostly Latino.
“We hear over and over again that the community will not cooperate with the LAPD,” Hutchinson said. “We wanted to put that [notion] to rest.”