Residents demand action over gang violence

Times Staff Writer

Just outside, children were playing soccer. But inside a Glassell Park gym Monday evening, the mood was somber as people demanded to know why a young woman had been killed in a seemingly senseless act of violence, and what the city was doing about it.

Franklin High School student Melissa Paul, 16, was shot to death Feb. 6 as she walked with two friends near the Glassell Park Recreation Center in Los Angeles.

Police said the assailant was a passenger in a white minivan that had driven past the three youths.

A 16-year-old boy, allegedly part of a local gang, was later arrested on weapons charges and is under investigation in the shooting, said Jose Carrillo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.


Paul was apparently the victim of a shot aimed at a gang rival, authorities said.

Glassell Park is a largely Latino community of modest stucco homes northwest of downtown L.A., near Glendale. With fear and anger in the community rising, City Councilman Eric Garcetti called the meeting Monday, drawing a crowd of about 200.

Most of the discussion focused on general fears about gang violence.

The mood was summed up by resident David Mukogawa, who tossed an American flag onto the table in front of Garcetti and other city and police officials. The flag had flown in front of Mukogawa’s house until last week, when it was spray-painted with orange gang signs.


“I want to know what’s going to be done about something like that,” Mukogawa said, adding that his home had been tagged three times in the same week -- once on the flag, once on his fence and once on his mailbox.

In response, Garcetti urged people to come forward and report such signs of gang activity. “If we are silent, then we become numb,” he said.

Echoing that plea was Felix Hernandez, an official with the Anahuak Youth Soccer Assn., who called for more frequent community meetings and greater involvement to give police the information they need.

“If we don’t report incidents, they won’t put a dot on their map, and next month there won’t be as many cops in the area,” he said.