Harbor Gateway Residents Express Fear, Frustration

HARBOR GATEWAY, January 21, 2007 – Harbor Gateway residents expressed fear and frustration Sunday in the wake of a shooting on the heels of a supposed cease fire agreed to by Latino gang members and black neighborhood activists.
“It’s like living in a battle zone,” said a single mother of three who lives on Harvard Boulevard in the sliver of city that connects South Los Angeles to the harbor area. Like many residents, the woman didn’t want to be publicly identified.

“I don’t know who my enemy is around here, because the blacks are shooting the Mexicans. The Mexicans are shooting the blacks, and the people that are friends of both are caught in the middle,” she said.

A 34-year-old black man, whose name police withheld, was wounded in front of an apartment complex near 225th Street and Harvard about 2 a.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police a Latino gunman walked up the passenger side of the car he was in and opened fire.

The shooting followed a cease-fire agreed to Thursday by one of the leaders of the 204th Street gang and brokered by black activist Najee Ali, who runs the nonprofit Project Islamic Hope.

It took the Dec. 15 shooting death of a 14-year-old black girl, Cheryl Green, to focus attention on what some residents say has been a longstanding division between blacks and Latinos in the working-class neighborhood. The girl was allegedly shot — two Latino gang members have been charged in the crime — for supposedly crossing a gang turf line at 206th Street.

That prompted Los Angeles police step up patrols and partner with the FBI to quell the violence. The City Attorney’s Office also is working on a civil injunction aimed at restraining known gang members.

Linda McIntosh, who lives in an complex across from where the latest shooting occurred, said she awoke to the sound of gunshots early Saturday. She said she heard what happened from a neighbor:

The man who was shot had been out bowling with his teenage daughters and wife, and the couple stopped to pick up one of their daughter’s friends for a sleep-over, she said.

As the couple waited in the car, and the daughters at the door of the building, several Latinos in beanie caps walked up to the passenger side, and one of them opened fire, McIntosh said.

The woman sped off to a hospital with her wounded husband, she said.

So far, police have not announced an arrest.

“They (the police) need to stop these people,” McIntosh said. “They need to be around here because this is three weekends in a row that there’s been gunfire at like 12 o’clock.”

Next door to the apartment complex stood a makeshift shrine for another Latino who lost his life there. Arturo Veragoza was fatally shot Nov. 26 in the driveway of his home, said his 13-year-old brother. A “For Sale” sign hung in front of house. The younger brother said the family was moving to Mexico.

A neighbor, a military veteran who spoke with a non-Latino accent and did not want to give his name, said he didn’t feel safe.

“(Gang members) drive by here every night on bicycles — two, three, four o’clock in the morning. I’m sleeping. I don’t feel safe. I’ve got graffiti (on my) wall that says `Eastside Torrance,”‘ he said.

Near the shooting scene, glass that apparently came from a blown-out window, remained in the roadway.

“We are in the midst of a racial war, and we are hopeful the community will not engage in any retaliation,” said Ali, who has been going door-to-door to talk to people.

He said he talked with the leaders of the 204th Street gang, and they denied any involvement, blaming the latest shooting on a separate Latino gang.

Ali was critical of the mayor and police chief for vowing a police crackdown the same day he and gang leaders signed a document in front of a corner market many black fear patronizing out of fear of treading on gang turf.

Ali called said the continued violence proved a crackdown was the wrong approach.

“So that only goes to show that we need to have a holistic and comprehensive plan to end gang violence. It cannot be just a get-tough-on-crime- lock-them-up-and-throw-away the key policy the Mayor’s Office and the FBI plans to implement.”

Civil rights lawyer Connie Rice recently delivered to the city a nearly $600,000 report with about 100 recommendations for curbing gangs.

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