Man Fatally Shot While Sitting in Truck

August 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

BOYLE HEIGHTS (CNS) – Police sought the public’s help Monday locating the person or people responsible for the shooting death of a 21-year-old man inside a pickup in Boyle Heights.

Officers dispatched about 10 p.m. Saturday to Bailey Street, just east of State Street, found a pickup truck stopped in the roadway and Jairo Rolando Recinos inside the vehicle with gunshot wounds, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police had no information on a possible suspect.

LAPD Hollenbeck station detectives asked anyone with any information regarding the shooting to call them at (323) 342-8964.

LAPD Attempts to Improve Trust in Boyle Heights

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A rash of officer-involved-shootings targeting Latinos and African Americans has sparked calls for greater transparency in police use of force incidents in the Los Angeles Police Department. Calls for better training of police officers working in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, where the recent fatal police shooting of a teenager sparked protests and a lawsuit by the victim’s family, are also on the rise.

The relationship between Los Angeles police and the city’s Eastside community is complicated. It’s been that way for generations.

At the Ramona Gardens pubic housing complex in Boyle Heights, for example, police for years were seen more as an occupying force than protectors against the gang-related crime and violence that has plagued the area for decades. Residents complained that LAPD’s “heavy hand” and “racial profiling” had led to many young Latinos being wrongly incarcerated, beaten or shot.

“People had a very negative image of the police,” recalls Sister Mary Catherine Antczak, principal at nearby Santa Teresita School.

On Tuesday, the L.A. Police Commission moved to require police officers to undergo “reality-based” training on a regular basis. Commission President Matt Johnson said he wants more training that “takes officers out of the classrooms, away from the computer” and puts them into “real-life interactive scenarios,” in hopes of de-escalating volatile situations.

A memorial is set up in Boyle Heights at the location where a 14-year-old was shot by an LAPD officer.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A memorial is set up in Boyle Heights at the location where a 14-year-old was shot by an LAPD officer. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For one group of LAPD officers, positive involvement with Ramona Gardens residents is how they hope to combat years of distrust and de-escalate conflicts.

“Believe it or not, most people here like us,” Officer Rivas told EGP on Monday.

Rivas is one of 10 officers in LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) unit based out of the Hollenbeck Station and exclusively assigned to Ramona Gardens. Since 2011, the unit’s mission has been to improve community relations while reducing crime. Their efforts have focused on providing services to steer children in the low-income housing complex away from the entrenched Hazard Gang that has for generations called the area home.

“We are here to break that cycle,” says Rivas.

After their daily patrols, officers return to the community to coach after school youth programs, including football, baseball, boxing and folklorico dancing. The officers also host community events and chaperone field trips to sporting events, theme parks and museums.

At first, parents, some of them former gang members, were hesitant to interact with the officers or to allow their children to participate in activities. It was hard to get past their views of abuse, excessive force and racial profiling by the LAPD in their own backyard.

Over the last five years however, may parents have experienced a change of heart and over 100 children ages 6 to 19 now participate in programs offered by CSP, according to Rivas.

“The greatest measure of trust is that these parents let the police interact with their children,” Sister Antczak points out.

Three of Rudy Espinoza’s children participate in the program. He’s lived in Ramona Gardens all his life and recalls that there was a time when he never would have thought of approaching a patrol car, let alone allowing his children to regularly interact with police officers.

“The kids feel safe in their presence,” he now acknowledges. “[The program] has built trust, specially for the younger generation,” he told EGP Monday.

Alejandro Cruz, 14, told EGP he reluctantly joined CSP programs when he was 8-years-old.

“At first I did not trust them,” he said. “But my mother knew at a certain age gangs would try to recruit me,” he explained.

Since then, Cruz has joined the running club, football team and taken trips to Dodgers games and Knott’s Berry Farm with the officers.

“They have motivated me and inspired me to move out of the projects and get more out of life,” says the Cathedral High School student.

Many single mothers in the area rely on the programs, explains Sister Antczek.

Our officers at times serve as father figures to the children, adds Officer Rivas.

“We tell them ‘it’s not where you live, it’s what you do with your life’” that matters, he explains.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Instead of fearing or running from police as they did in the past, Antczak tells EGP she now often sees people, including children, willingly approach officers patrolling the area.

She recalled an occasion when she grew concerned because she saw two eighth-grade students run off during a religious event, but to her surprise, they’d actually taken off to say hello to the local police officers, and were smiling and laughing when she found them.

“Who would believe that when young teenagers see the police they would be running towards them?”

But not everyone feels the same or sees interactions with the LAPD in such a positive light.

Many local activists still distrust the police and point to recent fatal encounters as proof that there is a long way to go before they’ll believe things have changed.

Two months ago, 14-year-old Jesse Romero was shot by a police officer in Boyle Heights during a foot chase. Already reeling from news of police shootings of African Americans and riots in other parts of the country, local activists were outraged that a vandalism call had ended with police shooting and killing the teenager. Protests and demands for justice have been ongoing.

There are conflicting reports about whether Romero shot at police officers; one witness claims the teen threw the gun at a fence, which inadvertently released a gunshot.

Longtime community activist Carlos Montes has been advocating against excessive use of force by the LAPD for years, most recently helping to organize protests in response to the shooting of Romero and others in recent months.

These days it’s hard to gauge whether the relationship between the LAPD and the community has really improved, he told EGP, pointing out that there have been five officer-involved shootings in Boyle Heights since February.

“There are police officers that want to kill and they want to shoot,” he claims. “There is a systematic problem…when is the last time a police officer got prosecuted for murder,” he said, showing that there are still those who don’t trust that justice will ever be served when it comes to cases involving excessive use of force by police.

Montes maintain CSP is just another LAPD “public relations” effort that does not address the core problem.

“Ramona Gardens has had a long history of police brutality and police killings,” Montes said. “They [LAPD] need too stop killing people and stop targeting blacks and browns.”

For the 14-year-old Cruz, police-involved shootings are a concern. He told EGP that when tragic officer-involved shootings take place, especially those involving LAPD, he will ask the officers he knows to explain what happened.

In his view, the LAPD has changed Ramona Gardens for the better. He says parents no longer fear letting their children play outside, something he was not allowed to do when he first moved there.

“It still looks scary, but it feels safer,” he said.

The positive interactions between the officers and children through CSP have also slowly started to change the way their parents view the LAPD presence in Ramona Gardens.

“The kids are ambassadors in some ways,” points out Sister Antczak. “With everything being said about police officers, this program is the way to build trust.”


Man Wounded in Drive-By Shooting

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A 33-year-old man was walking down a street in Boyle Heights when he was wounded in a drive-by shooting, and the gunman remains at large, police said Wednesday.

The shooting took place in the 3100 block of Lanfranco Street about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to Sgt. Miguel Lopez, the watch commander at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division.

“The victim was walking down the street and four gunshots were fired,” Lopez said. “The victim was hit once in the calf.”

The man was transported by city fire paramedics to a hospital for treatment of his non-life-threatening wound.

“So far, we don’t have any suspect description,” Lopez said early this morning.

A motive for the shooting was unknown. There’s no word yet on whether the shooting was gang-related.

Anyone with information on this shooting was asked to call the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division at (323) 342-4100. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS. All tips can be submitted anonymously.

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