Gang Rape of Girl Shocks Pico Rivera

Gang Rape of Girl Shocks Pico Rivera
By Ammara Durrani and Eric Malnic
Times Staff Writers

July 14, 2005

Six teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of gang-raping a 13-year-old girl in a park restroom in Pico Rivera while as many as 16 other boys and young men watched and cheered, sheriff’s deputies said Wednesday.

Investigators said they were working to identify and arrest the onlookers.

Residents and city officials reacted to the crime with outrage, revulsion and fear.

“It’s horrible. The whole community is up in arms,” Ron Beilke, a councilman in the San Gabriel Valley city of 65,000, said Wednesday. “We’re a close-knit community, and the whole town is affected.

“We definitely have a lot of healing to do.”

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said the victim, an incoming freshman at Pico Rivera’s El Rancho High School, was walking along a street about 11:30 a.m. on July 6 when she accepted a car ride from four male teenagers, at least one of whom she knew.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott said they drove to nearby William A. Smith Park, where the group was met by 12 to 16 other male teenagers. He said most if not all of them were thought to be gang members or affiliated with gangs.

“They started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, and they forced her to drink,” Scott said. He said the girl was then dragged into a park restroom, where six of the teenagers raped her “while the others looked on and cheered.”

After the attack, which lasted less than 20 minutes, the teenagers dispersed, officials said.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Beilke said. “It’s as though none of them thought of the consequences of what had happened.”

In the days that followed, the girl identified her assailants, Beilke said.

“She’s been in Pico Rivera since kindergarten, and she graduated in June from Burke Middle School,” the councilman said. “Chances are, most of them went to school with her.”

The victim, who has been recovering at home after being hospitalized overnight, “is doing as well as could be expected,” Scott said.

He said detectives were confident the six teenagers arrested at their homes in Pico Rivera early Monday were “the main players” in the crime.

One, an adult age 18 or 19 whose identity has not been released, was booked at the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station on suspicion of rape. His bail was set at $100,000. The other suspects, ages 16 and 17, were taken to juvenile detention facilities, where they were being held without bail.

Scott said deputies hoped to arrest others who watched, but did not actively participate in, the attack. He said some of them might eventually be charged with being accessories to rape.

“I’m outraged that children — and that’s what they are, children — would do things like this,” Scott said.

Mayor David W. Armenta called the crime a tragedy, adding that some residents were so overwhelmed they were afraid to leave their homes.

Despite the attack at the park and the concerns that it engendered, dozens of people of all ages were visiting the grassy, tree-shaded facility Wednesday. A birthday party was underway, and children frolicked on playground equipment.

But Raul Bustoh, who takes his grandson to the park pool for swimming lessons, said the attack had cast a pall. “We have to keep alert and watch out for our kids,” he said.

Pico Rivera was formed in 1958 by the merger of two formerly agricultural communities: Pico on the north, named for Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, and Rivera on the south, named for its location between the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers.

Over the years, the mostly blue-collar town has metamorphosed into a largely residential community, stretching almost five miles downriver from the Whittier Narrows Dam on the north to Telegraph Road, near the Santa Ana Freeway, on the south.

Beilke said that although Pico Rivera had experienced many of the problems common to developing urban areas, “thank God this kind of crime is very rare here.”

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