Panel meets after a bloody weekend

Panel meets after a bloody weekend
Members look for solutions to violence after shootings that left 1 dead, 8 hurt.
By Kristopher Hanson
Staff writer

Monday, June 14, 2004 – LONG BEACH — Members of a volunteer task force formed to combat youth violence met Monday in the wake of a bloody weekend during which eight young adults were shot at a party and a 20-year-old man was ki*led in separate attacks believed to be gang-related.

“We have to start getting the message out to our youth that this is unacceptable and has to stop,’ said Jessica Quintana, a task force member who serves as executive director of the nonprofit Centro CHA in Long Beach. “These are our kids out here dying.’

It was the third time the 40- member task force has met since May to coordinate strategies and programs to battle youth violence and gang crime problems which have troubled the city for decades.

Monday’s meeting involved task force members gathering in five focus groups to discuss topics that included youth employment, educating parents, reinforcing antiviolence messages through a mblankive media campaign and securing funds for youth programs.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,’ said the Rev. Mike Gillette of First United Methodist Church in Long Beach. “We do need to get a feel for what’s working already in the community … and see if we can adopt some of those things and see what other resources are available.’

There were also calls to engage more Long Beach youths in devising ways to diminish the appeal of gangs to local kids. Only one teen, Elijah Kemp-Bowdre, is currently a member of the task force and he’s expected to leave soon to attend college in Florida.

For some in attendance, the meeting took on a sense of urgency in light of the weekend attacks.

At midnight Saturday, eight youths ages 14 to 20 were shot and wounded as they attended a high school graduation party in the 500 block of Temple Avenue. The shooters opened fire from a pblanking vehicle and police are investigating the attack as possibly gang-related.

Just after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Long Beach resident Jose Corona, 20, was shot and ki*led in a drive- by attack near Ninth Street and Cerritos Avenue. Police arrested two suspects, allegedly Asian gang members, a few hours later.

For Quintana, whose 20-year- old son knew Corona from school, the violence is becoming unbearable.

“My son has buried three of his friends he knew from high school in the past two years,’ Quintana said. “These kids he knew weren’t even gang members, but they became victims anyway. It’s time the community started setting its priorities, working together and investing in our children.’

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