Essential California: L.A.’s gun violence surges

Shooting scene
Los Angeles police respond to a shooting scene — one of five by a single gunman on April 27 — at 7th and Figueroa streets.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, May 4. I’m Shelby Grad.

Los Angeles is rapidly recovering from the pandemic, with COVID-19 cases flattening and businesses reopening.

But in some parts of city, that progress is being marred by an increase in violence. As Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said: “It’s frankly too many guns in too many hands.” Consider these startling statistics:

— L.A. has seen 465 shootings since Jan. 1, an almost 67% increase over the same period last year.

— Homicides, at 115 as of Sunday, were up more than 26%.

— Preliminary data from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department show that homicides in surrounding areas increased by more than 113% in the first three months of this year, with 64 killings, compared with 30 during the same period in 2020.


As The Times’ Kevin Rector reports: “Police say gangs were often to blame; disputes at homeless encampments were another major factor. Victims have included people shot during robberies, drivers randomly shot in their cars and pedestrians gunned down on the street. A 12-year-old girl was shot at an outdoor birthday party; a 6-year-old boy was shot at an apartment building.”

[Read the story “Startling spike in L.A. bloodshed as COVID-19 fades: ‘Too many guns in too many hands’ “ in the Los Angeles Times]


The Los Angeles Times has a new editor at a crucial moment. Since 2015, Kevin Merida has been editor in chief of the Undefeated, the award-winning ESPN division that plumbs the intersection of race, culture and sports. Before that, he worked at the Washington Post, where he rose to managing editor in charge of news, features and the universal news desk. (Los Angeles Times)

Kevin Merida
ESPN’s Kevin Merida has been named executive editor of the Los Angeles Times.
(Teresa Kroeger / Getty Images

Merida on the new job: “There were a lot of people who gave reasons why I shouldn’t do this. And the more that I heard that, the more I wanted it. It’s a little bit like, ‘OK, we’ll see.’ I see nothing but opportunity. I think this can be the most innovative media company in the country. That’s what I’m going to try to help Patrick [achieve]. I think people will watch and see what we do. The journalism is already tremendous. So, we’ll just build on that. And, I think, we’ll shock the world.” (Los Angeles Times)

The challenges ahead. (New York Times)


—The Washington Post notes: “Merida is the second African American to lead the Times’ newsroom. Dean Baquet, currently executive editor of the New York Times, previously held the position during Tribune’s ownership. He is the third person of color in the job, following Baquet and Davan Maharaj, who was editor and publisher until 2017.”

— Axios notes: “Last year, Latino journalists at the Times pushed management to invest more in coverage of the Latino population, which is one of the biggest demographics in the region.”

Plus: Listen to our new daily podcast with Gustavo Arellano. (Los Angeles Times)

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


California’s COVID-19 fight is going great, but there are some warning signs on vaccines.

The good news: Even as Oregon and Washington face new COVID-19 surges, there is growing optimism that California remains in recovery mode as coronavirus cases continue to fall dramatically, along with related deaths. (Los Angeles Times)

A data point: California continues to do better than any other state, with the lowest per capita coronavirus case rate in the nation over the last week. Texas has double California’s case rate; New York, quadruple; and Florida has nearly six times California’s rate. Michigan still has the nation’s highest rate, at 299 cases per 100,000 residents — 10 times California’s rate of 29 cases per 100,000 residents.

The bad news: Providers throughout Los Angeles County administered 144,000 fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses last week compared with the week prior — the clearest evidence yet that the demand for doses has dropped significantly. (Los Angeles Times)

A data point: From April 17 to April 23, there were 611,592 doses administered countywide — an average of roughly 87,000 a day, according to figures presented Monday. From April 24 to April 30, the pace tailed off significantly: Only 467,134 doses were doled out, an average of about 67,000 per day.

Schools: Los Angeles Unified on Monday reopened its playground equipment, following the lead of many other school districts and local city and county parks. Access will be limited to one class of students at a time, and the equipment will be sanitized regularly. (Los Angeles Times)

The needle: How to get over that fear. (Los Angeles Times)


Tens of thousands of applicants to the University of California are wait-listed amid record applications, and admission directors say forecasting chances of being selected is as uncertain as ever. (LA Times)

An adjunct professor at Cypress College has been placed on leave after challenging a student who praised the police as heroes in a recorded Zoom class that since has gone viral. (Los Angeles Times)

Teachers are seeing students for the first time in a year. They’re growing! (LAist)

Support our journalism

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The deadly smuggling boat disaster off the coast of San Diego comes at a time of escalating maritime smuggling attempts into Southern California and a recently announced effort by federal authorities to disrupt the trafficking. (Los Angeles Times)

Plus: The search for other victims has been suspended. (San Diego Union-Tribune)


California Republicans keep taking donations from a Las Vegas mogul despite harassment allegations. (Los Angeles Times)

“We oughta run Gary Coleman. I was thinking about Arnold. Who is the opposite of Arnold?” A tale from the 2003 recall. (Mercury News)


For the very rich estate of Michael Jackson, some good news. (Wall Street Journal).

Criminal charges for a Bay Area “mom influencer” after she claimed her children were kidnapped. (The Argus-Courier)


Although California’s most dangerous tsunamis come from thousands of miles away, scientists say they’ve pinpointed a wave trigger that’s much closer to home. Earthquakes along strike-slip faults can cause potentially dangerous waves in certain contexts, a new model shows — and such faults do exist right off parts of the Golden State’s shores. (Los Angeles Times)

California could get 600,000 new acres of federally protected wilderness under legislation introduced Monday in the U.S. Senate. The designation would ensure the lands remain free of development, vehicles and commercial activity. (Los Angeles Times)

Water flowing over rocks
Legislation proposed by California’s two senators would designate more than 583 miles of river in the state — including 45 miles of tributaries of the San Gabriel River, shown, and Little Rock Creek — as “wild and scenic rivers,” a protection that prohibits dams or new mining.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Salmon season is off to a slow and costly start. (San Francisco Chronicle)


The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s leadership is calling on the organization to make substantive changes, including that board members resign if the group does not approve and implement proposed reforms. (Los Angeles Times)

Dude. I remember this.” More than a year after COVID-19 essentially shut down the live-music business, Foo Fighters and a host of other acts stepped carefully but excitedly into the post-pandemic future Sunday night at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium. (Los Angeles Times)

Plus: Is Prince Harry now the King of L.A.? (Daily Mail)

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Los Angeles: sunny, 83. San Diego: mostly sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 94. Sacramento: sunny, 92.


Today’s California memory comes from Thomas D. Penberthy:

In 1956, my Aunt Irene and Uncle Frank moved from Buffalo, N.Y., to the Golden State. They moved to Fresno. I was so envious of them. In 1962, they returned to Buffalo for a family visit. Uncle Frank was now wearing western boots, western-cut slacks and shirt. And a large western belt buckle. Their clothing had changed from that of drab, dreary, gray western New York to that of the “Golden West.” I truly envied them so.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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