3 More Are Killed in Compton

3 More Are Killed in Compton
The latest slayings bring the total so far this year to 54, well over last year’s total, despite recent aggressive law enforcement efforts.
By Megan Garvey
Times Staff Writer

October 13, 2005

Compton, already reeling from a spike in homicides this year, saw three more killings overnight Tuesday — pushing the total to 54 and dampening Sheriff Lee Baca’s announcement Wednesday about a recent crackdown on violent criminals.

With nearly three months left in the year, the city of about 96,000 has recorded 11 more homicides than all of last year. In addition, at least five more people have been killed within blocks of the city limits — including the fatal shooting last month of an off-duty sailor whose pregnant wife, unborn child and brother were wounded in the attack at a shopping mall.

Nine arrests have been made in the Compton killings.

Sheriff’s investigators continue to say they have found no specific catalyst for the sharp increase, which comes after declining homicide rates since the Sheriff’s Department took over from a disbanded city force in 2000. In addition to the killings, more than 200 people have been shot and wounded there this year.

Standing behind the sheriff’s station Wednesday morning, Baca said, “Everything you can imagine is leading to the rise in murders — including randomness.”

With no new resources likely anytime soon, Baca said he hoped to recruit at least 100 citizen volunteers, equipped with vehicles and radios to contact sheriff’s deputies about crime hot spots and illicit behavior.

“If we don’t have enough money to hire black-and-whites, I’m asking the community to be our eyes and ears,” Baca said.

The city contracts for about 75 deputies to patrol the 10-square-mile area — mostly one to a car. The nearby Los Angeles Police Department’s Southeast Division, which serves 150,000 residents in an area the same size as Compton, deploys 258 patrol officers working two to a car.

Compton City Councilman Isadore Hall III said his constituents are “disillusioned” by the uptick in violence and concerned about the lack of progress in solving homicides and shootings.

“They don’t have high expectations” of deputies’ abilities to stem the killings, said Hall, the only City Council member to attend Wednesday’s news conference.

“We could have twice as many murders as last year,” he said. “They’re asking us: What the hell is going on?”

City Manager Barbara Kilroy called this year disheartening for residents who had been hoping for a continued turnaround in the crime rate and the city’s reputation.

“The perpetrators aren’t being apprehended. They aren’t being convicted,” she said in an interview. “There’s a feeling that if we were doing a better job at apprehending the shooters, we’d be going a long way to solving the volume of incidents.”

Baca cited gangs, drugs and racial tension as contributing factors to the rising homicide rate.

In addition, he said bad luck had helped spur the spike. “The murders that could have occurred in other places have occurred in Compton,” he said.

The three new killings came hours before Baca’s news conference announcing 86 arrests last week in an aggressive three-day law enforcement sweep of Compton that involved 200 officers from local, state and federal agencies. Sheriff’s officials said they targeted the worst parole violators living in Compton. But the three homicides Tuesday night underscored how difficult it has been to contain the violence that threatens to return the city to the top of the list of most dangerous places to live.

In one incident, a man and a woman were killed by a “shotgun assassin” about 10:20 p.m., Baca said.

“He ran out of rounds and then he used the shotgun itself to bludgeon the woman to death,” he said of the assailant. “One human being is a monster and the other two are innocent victims.”

Coroner’s officials said the victims — who were pronounced dead at the scene — were a 23-year-old woman and a 33-year-old man. Their names were not released because next of kin had not yet been notified.

In the other killing, Darell Tillman, 20, was shot multiple times in his upper body and died at a hospital, sheriff’s officials said.

“Obviously, we believe that the more resources we bring together the more crime will come down,” Baca said. “We’re fighting a battle that is an invisible one for most of the people of Los Angeles County.”

Baca called most county residents indifferent to the problems facing residents of Compton and other high-crime areas. At the same time, Baca said, some Compton parents whose children are gang members need to come “out of denial” and others need to “stop supporting their children in gangs.”

“What I’m asking for is a realization on the part of all parents that you have an obligation to have a partnership with the sheriff before tragedy happens to your family,” he said.

Fourteen Compton homicide victims this year have been teenagers, five of them under the age of 16.

An 8-month-old fetus was shot and killed. In addition, at least one other unborn child, the daughter of slain sailor Osiel Hipolito, 20, was wounded and had to undergo surgery on her leg after she was born by emergency C-section at 8 months.

That shooting took place a few blocks from the Compton city limits, across the street from the park where Venus and Serena Williams learned to play tennis on public courts. An arrest was made in that case after family members and sheriff’s investigators appealed to the public for information.

Without increased cooperation from residents, Baca and other sheriff’s officials said that putting killers in prison was difficult.

“In about 30% to 40% of homicides in Compton we have a good idea of who committed the crime, but we can’t get a witness to come forward,” said Cmdr. Ralph Martin, who heads field operations for the region that includes Compton.

“We consider a crime cleared once charges are filed, and that’s happened only a handful of times this year. What do you say to a single mother who saw something and is afraid to testify?” he said.

Kilroy, the city manager, said some of the fault lies with the Sheriff’s Department.

“You have to earn the trust of a community,” she said. “Clearly the sheriff has not succeeded in doing that yet.”

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