Girl killed in Highland Park shooting is identified

The 14-year-old had been on life support since the Tuesday attack, which wounded two others. A gang member, 16, is in custody.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
8:39 AM PDT, May 28, 2008

Authorities this morning identified a 14-year-old Highland Park girl who died Tuesday after allegedly being shot by a 16-year-old gang member.

Cynthia Perez of Los Angeles died of a gunshot wound to the head on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, said Assistant Chief Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. Perez was shot while riding in the back seat of her parent’s SUV in Highland Park on Monday. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the assailant opened fire on another motorist, Fabian Aguirre, 33, of Highland Park, who had stopped his pickup alongside the SUV. Both vehicles were at York Boulevard and North Avenue 64, waiting for the light to change.
Police had not released the identity of the 16-year-old in custody this morning, but said he was standing at the intersection about 3:15 p.m. when he began arguing with Aguirre, then pulled a gun and started firing.

Aguirre, who was not armed, was struck once in each arm. He drove away and was later taken to a hospital and treated, police said.

Perez’s parents immediately realized that she was wounded and pulled into a nearby Rite-Aid parking lot. From there, she was taken to Huntington Hospital, where doctors placed her on life support, Det. Lewis Lenchuk said. An LAPD spokesman said Perez was removed from life support about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Perez’s 7-year-old brother, who was sitting next to her, suffered minor injuries from shattered glass but was not hospitalized, Lenchuk said.

The suspect, who told investigators he belongs to the Avenues gang, was detained Monday on an outstanding juvenile warrant, Det. Lisa Governo said. He was ordered held at Central Juvenile Hall. Several youths who were with him at the time of the shooting were detained and released Tuesday, Governo said.

Investigators plan to meet with staff from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office today to prepare murder and attempted murder charges against the youth, Lenchuk said.

An injunction against the Avenues gang is in effect in the area where the shooting occurred. Police are investigating whether the shooting was gang-related.

Detectives found a weapon at the scene, Lenchuk said today, and were reviewing surveillance tapes from a gas station at the intersection.

On Tuesday, Dinorah Williams, 34, stopped at the corner where the shooting occurred to mark the spot with a potted sunflower. By afternoon, others had left votive candles and a white teddy bear.

Williams, a labor representative who lives a few blocks away with her husband and three young children, said she brought the plant to send a message.

“I live in the neighborhood, and I don’t want people to forget,” she said. She and her husband moved to the area five years ago when they bought their first home, Williams said. “We felt this community was changing and becoming a safer neighborhood.” But she said there have been a number of recent shootings in the area, which she called “heart-wrenching.”

Williams said she worries for her 5-year-old twin girls and her son, who is 7. “With the situation so out of control, it’s putting them at risk,” she said. “We have a lot of problems, and it seems nothing is being done about it.”

Rosa Rivas, who described herself as a community activist, also came to the corner. She said she has lived in the neighborhood for 27 years and knows the shooting victim and her family, who live a few blocks from the crime scene. Rivas said she believes there needs to be more intervention and anti-gang education at schools, particularly nearby Burbank Middle School

“We have worked hard to improve the community,” Rivas said. “Then you have these thugs who come to the community and just do what they want — hurt.”

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