Dos personas fueron baleadas en plena luz del día martes en Highland Park cerca de la cuadra 300 N. Avenida 59 entre Monte Vista y Terrace Drive, a poca distancia de una escuela parroquial y un área mayoritariamente residencial.
Con este se acumulan 14 tiroteos relacionados con las pandillas en menos de dos meses, y con 11 personas heridas.
El martes a las 4:30pm, según la policía, unos sospechosos en un vehículo plateado abrieron fuego contra las víctimas, aún no identificadas, pero descritos como dos hombres latinos de 19 y 22 años de edad. Las víctimas están en condición estable, según el Comandante de la Policía de Los Ángeles Robert Argos. Se dispararon entre seis a ocho tiros.
Read this article in English: Surge in Highland Park Gang Shootings Has People Worried
Este último tiroteo se produce menos de una semana de que residentes preocupados llenaran el Centro de Personas Mayores de Highland Park durante una reunión para escuchar lo que la policía y los funcionarios de la ciudad están haciendo para conseguir que la erupción de tiroteos disminuyan.
Se trata de una guerra entre dos pandillas rivales – Avenidas y HLP – pero no todas las víctimas son miembros de pandillas, dijo el Capitán Anthony Oddo de la División Noreste del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles (LAPD). Dijo que la mayoría de las víctimas lesionadas son hombres entre las edades de 18 y 29. Ninguno de los sospechosos han sido arrestados.
El Consejo Vecinal del Histórico Highland Park organizó la reunión del 2 de abril con representantes de los dos distritos concejales que cubren el área CD-1 y CD-14, de la oficina de la Supervisora Hilda Solis y la oficina del fiscal de la ciudad. La Comisionado de LAPD Sandra Figueroa Villa, el Comandante Arcos, y oficiales de alto rango de la División Noreste participaron en la discusión contestando preguntas y tomando las críticas de los residentes.
Sabemos que hay un problema y estamos recibiendo refuerzos, incluyendo más unidades de patrulla y equipos especiales de otras áreas, dijo Oddo.
Señaló la audacia de los tiroteos, varios de los cuales tuvieron lugar en plena luz del día con mucha gente alrededor.
Un patrón que se repitió el martes.
Y a las 7pm del 25 de febrero en el Centro de Recreación de Highland Park donde dos mujeres inocentes resultaron heridas por disparos que estaban dirigidos a dos miembros de la pandilla HLP, pero fallaron el blanco, según la policía. El sospechoso o sospechosos se cree que son miembros de Avenidas, dijo el viernes a EGP el Teniente John Cook de la Unidad de Pandillas de LAPD División Noreste.
El 22 de marzo, una persona en un auto fue baleada cerca del parque Garvanza alrededor de las 5pm mientras acontecía un juego de béisbol de jovenes. La policía sospecha que el tiroteo fue hecho por HLP en represalia por un tiroteo de Avenidas la noche anterior, dijo Cook.
Parece que HLP ha disparado a Avenidas 8 veces, y Avenidas a HLP 5 veces, dijo Cook.
El tiroteo del martes fue en territorio de HLP.
“Tenemos gente en el vecindario, que son probablemente testigos pero no vienen a acusarlos” porque tienen miedo, dijo Cook.
“Es muy raro que un tiroteo pase frente a nosotros”, por lo que necesitamos la ayuda del público, agregó.
La semana pasada, Oddo dijo que han habido 105 arrestos en el área de Highland Park durante el mismo período, pero ninguno los ha llevado a los sospechosos de los tiroteos, pero espera que uno de estos pueda llevarlos a un sospechoso.
Tal vez las personas no están seguras si su sospecha es importante, pero la más pequeña información, cosas que se escuchan entre personas pueden ser examinadas y pueden conducir a alguna parte, dijo, instando a la gente a llamar a la policía con cualquier información que tengan.
Varios residentes se quejaron puesto que se veía venir esto desde hace algún tiempo, debido al aumento de graffiti y “tachaduras”, la práctica de una pandilla tachando el nombre de un rival, que a menudo conduce a represalias violentas.
Los residentes dicen que llaman a los removedores de graffiti inmediatamente para que limpien y así tratar de detener la violencia que podría venir después, pero quieren saber que más se puede hacer.
Llamen cuando vean algo, conozcan a sus vecinos, formen un grupo de vigilancia vecinal, fueron algunas de las sugerencias.
“No podemos hacer esto solos, necesitamos que la comunidad se involucre”, dijeron los oficiales.
En una zona donde ha habido un significante debate sobre el valor de la ‘gentrificación’, es importante tener en cuenta que la mayoría de la gente que asistió a la reunión son residentes de muchos años en Highland Park. Varias personas que hablaron o hicieron preguntas dijeron que han vivido en el mismo lugar durante décadas, y aun recuerdan la violencia de guerras entre pandillas pasadas.
Conocemos los signos, dijo la Presidenta del Consejo Vecinal Mónica Alcaraz antes de pedir que levantaran la mano quienes han vivido en la comunidad durante 20 años o más; 80% de los asistentes lo hizo.
Los residentes expresaron preocupación de que la AB 109 y la realineación de la prisión por parte del gobernador, y aprobación de la Proposición 47 están liberando a los criminales y mandándolos de nuevo a sus vecindarios antes de tiempo.
Un orador dijo que los miembros de pandillas pasan tiempo en los campamentos de los desamparados y ha escuchado que pagan a los desamparados con drogas para robar en casas y autos.
El residente Richard Márquez dijo que es hora de dejar de estar adivinando y hablar de la verdadera causa: Highland Park tiene un gran problema con los distribuidores y usuarios de metanfetamina, y es mucho dinero. “Los traficantes de metanfetamina pagan impuestos a los miembros de pandillas” y la manera de detener los disparos es detener el tráfico de drogas, dijo.
“Hay una lucha por el beneficio económico del territorio de drogas en los vecindarios”, agregó Márquez.
Cook dijo que están monitoreando de cerca a pandilleros que salen de la cárcel.
Alguien le preguntó si todavía están los mandatos judiciales en su lugar.
Hay tres mandatos de pandillas—una orden de restricción emitida por un tribunal que prohíbe a los miembros de pandillas reconocidas se reúnan con entre sí—en el lugar, (Avenidas, Dogtown, HLP), pero que no se aplican a los nuevos miembros de pandillas, según Cook.
La ex residente de Highland Park Lily Herrera dijo que está preocupada por su madre que aún vive en el vecindario. Años de desconfianza de los residentes a la policía les previene de hablar. “La comunidad tiene miedo porque hay una barrera” cuando se trata de comunicación, dijo Herrera.
Sugirió a LAPD explorar más estrategias para acercarse a la comunidad.
La Maestra Gemma Márquez exigió saber por qué la policía no visita regularmente las escuelas primarias locales para desarrollar esas relaciones. “Sabemos quienes son los niños en situación de riesgo”, dijo ella. “Conocemos a las familias, los vemos desde el preescolar” y la policía se tiene que presentar desde un punto de vista diferente.
También criticó los oficiales por no notificar a la escuela Primaria Garvanza y ponerlos bajo cierre de emergencia durante el tiroteo en el parque Garvanza. “¿Dónde estaban ustedes? Deberían haberlos llamado”.
Oddo se disculpó por no tener en cuenta que había estudiantes en el programa después de clases a las 5pm cuando ocurrió el tiroteo.
Cook le dijo a EGP que es difícil para la Unidad de Pandillas de la División Noreste—compuesta de 15 oficiales y dos sargentos—participar en presentaciones en las escuelas constantemente, ya que resta recursos en la noche, cuando se necesitan más agentes.
“Si nos llaman en una escuela para hacer una presentación [durante el día] lo haremos, pero tengan en cuenta, que esto nos quita nuestra función principal para estar en la calle cuando hay actividad criminal”, dijo. “Los tiroteos ocurren en la noche”.
Por esa razón, cuando la policía identifica a los pandilleros o jóvenes en riesgo de involucrarse en pandillas los refieren a grupos de intervención como Aztecs Rising, que forma parte del programa de Reducción de Pandillas y Desarrollo Juvenil (GRYD) en el noreste de Los Ángeles.
Cook dijo que la Unidad de Pandillas de LAPD intenta participar en eventos públicos tanto les sea posible, como el evento del sábado organizado por Aztecs Rising del día de Pascua o durante el Programa de Summer Night Lights en el verano. “Esa es la oportunidad [para los oficiales de LAPD] para hablar con los niños pequeños”, dijo.
Cook dijo que han identificado “dos personas que estuvieron involucradas en el parque Garvanza disparando [que] pueden ser los sospechosos de tal vez dos o tres tiroteos más.
LAPD “recibe muy poca [información]” de la comunidad y eso es frustrante, Oddo le dijo a los asistentes de la reunión de la semana pasada. Dijo que su principal prioridad es la violencia en el noreste, pero necesita que la gente los llame cuando vean algo.
Dos eventos próximos proporcionarán más información y recursos a la comunidad: la Marcha Anual de la Paz en el Noreste y Feria de Recursos para el 18 de abril, y un foro sobre los mandatos judiciales el 30 de abril en el Centro de Personas Mayores de Highland Park.
Two people were shot in broad daylight Tuesday in Highland Park near the 300 block of North Avenue 59 and Terrace Drive, just blocks from a parochial school and in an area of mostly single-family homes.
The shooting brings to 14 the number of gang-related shootings in less than two months, and the number of people injured to 11.
At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to police, a suspect in a silver vehicle opened fire on the victims, still unidentified but described as two male Latinos, ages 19 and 22. The victims are said to be in stable condition, according to LAPD Commander Robert Argos.
Lea este artículo en Español: Incremento de Tiroteos en Highland Park Preocupa a Residentes
The latest shooting comes less than a week after worried residents packed a meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center to hear what police and city officials are doing to get the rash of shootings under control.
This is a turf war between two rival gangs – Avenues and HLP – but not all the victims are gang members, said Capt. Anthony Oddo of the Los Angeles Police Dept.’s Northeast Division. He said the majority of the victims injured are males between the ages of 18 and 29. None of the shooters have been arrested.
The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council hosted the April 2 meeting, with representatives of the two city council districts in the area, CD-1 and CD-14, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the city attorney’s office in attendance.
LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa Villa, Commander Robert Arcos, and ranking officers assigned to the Northeast Division were also out in force, doing most of the talking, answering questions and taking criticism from residents.
We know there is a problem and we are getting reinforcements, including more patrol units and special teams from other areas, Oddo said.
He pointed out the boldness of the shootings, several of which took place in broad daylight with many people around.
A pattern repeated Tuesday.
And at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Highland Park Recreation Center where two innocent females were injured by gunfire police say was targeted at two HLP gang members, but missed its mark. The suspect or suspects are believed to be members of the Avenues, LAPD’s Northeast Gang Unit Lt. John Cook told EGP.
On March 22, a person in a car was shot at Garvanza Park. The shooting took place at 5 p.m. as a youth baseball game was being played at the crowded park. Police suspect the shooting was in retaliation for an Avenues’ shooting the night before, Cook said.
It appears HLP has targeted the Avenues 8 times, and the Avenue targeted HLP 5 times, Cook added.
Tuesday’s shooting was in HLP territory.
“We have people in the neighborhood, they are probably witnesses, but they are not coming forth” because they’re afraid, Cook said.
“It’s very rare that a shooting will happen in front of us” so we need the public’s help, he said.
Last week, Oddo said 105 arrests have been made in the Highland Park area during the same period, but none have led to the shooters.
You may not be sure if it’s important, but the smallest bit of information may lead somewhere, he said, urging people to call police. You can do it anonymously, he added.
Several residents complained they’ve seen this coming for months, noting the increase in graffiti and “cross outs,” the practice of one gang crossing out the tag of a rival that often leads to violent retaliation.
They said they call the graffiti in right away to get it cleaned up and to try to stop the violence that could come next, but wanted to know what else they could do.
Call in what you see, get to know your neighbors, form a neighborhood watch, were among the suggestions.
“We cannot do this alone, we need the community to get involved,” officers said.
In a neighborhood where there’s been a lot of debate over the value of gentrification, it should be noted that the majority of people at the meeting are long time Highland Park residents. Several people who spoke or asked questions said they have lived in the neighborhood for decades and remember all to well the violence of past gang wars.
We know the signs, said neighborhood council President Monica Alcaraz before asking those who have lived in the community for 20 years or longer to raise their hand: 80% did.
Residents expressed concern that the governor’s prison realignment and passage of Proposition 47 are sending criminals released early from jail back into their neighborhood.
One speaker said gang members are hanging out at homeless encampments and she’s heard the homeless are being paid with drugs to burglarize local homes and cars.
Resident Richard Marquez said it’s time to stop dancing around and talk about the real issue: Highland Park has a big problem with meth dealers and users and it’s big money. “Meth dealers pay taxes to gang members.” To stop the shootings you have to shut down the drug trade, he said.
Cook said they are closely monitoring gang members coming out of jail.
Former Highland Park resident Lily Herrera said she is worried about her mother who still lives in the neighborhood. She believes years of mistrust of the police is keeping people from saying what they know. “The community is afraid because there’s a barrier,” Herrera said.
She suggested LAPD explore more strategies to reach out to the community.
Teacher Gemma Marquez demanded to know why police are not regularly visiting local elementary schools to develop those relationships. Like going to the dentist twice a year to prevent cavities, police should visit schools twice a year to give at risk-students a positive view of police, she said.
“We know who the at-risk kids are,” she said. “We know the families, we see them as early as kindergarten.”
She also criticized officers for not notifying Garvanza Elementary to go on lock-down during the shooting at Garvanza Park. “Where were you! We should have been called.”
Oddo apologized for not considering students were still at the afterschool program at 5 p.m. when the shooting occured.
Cook told EGP it’s difficult for the Northeast LAPD Gang Unit—comprised of 15 officers and two sergeants—to participate in school appearances. “If we are called upon to go to a school to make a presentation [during the day] we will do it, but understand, that takes away our primary function to be out on the street when there’s criminal activity,” he said. “Shootings occur at night.”
That’s one of the reasons police turn over the names of identified gang members or at-risk youth to intervention groups such as Aztecs Rising, part of the Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) program in Northeast L.A.
Cook said the LAPD Gang Unit tries to be at as many public events as possible, such as Aztecs Rising’s Easter Egg Hunt last Saturday or during the Summer Night Light Program. That’s the opportunity to talk to young children, he said.
According to Cook, police have identified two people involved in the Garvanza shooting “[who] may be the shooters in perhaps two or three other shootings.”
Residents can learn more about the violence and local resources at two upcoming events: the Annual Peace in the Northeast March and Resource Fair on April 18, and a forum on gang injunctions April 30 at the Highland Park Senior Center.
“The days of not getting involved have to end, said Oddo, “if they don’t, the shootings won’t stop.”
Worried about a rash of gang-related shootings in their neighborhood, residents packed a meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center Thursday night to hear what police are doing to get the situation under control.
A turf war between two rival gangs – Avenues and HLP – is being blamed for the 13 shootings, 9 people shot, in less than two months. Not all the victims were gang members, said Capt. Anthony Oddo of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Northeast Division.
He pointed out the boldness of the shootings, several which took place in broad daylight with many people around.
The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council hosted the meeting, with representatives of the two city council districts that cover the area, CD-1 and CD-14, LAPD Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the city attorney’s office in attendance.
Ranking officers assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Northeast Division were out in force and did most of the talking, answering questions and taking criticism from residents.
Northeast police know there is a problem and we are getting reinforcements, including more patrol units and special teams from other areas, Oddo said.
But we are getting very little information from the public about the shootings and none of the shooters are in custody, he said.
“Victims are not talking to us … they are not gang members; they’re scared,” the captain said, adding the department needs the public’s help to stop the shootings.
There has been 105 arrests in the Highland Park area during the same period, but none have led to the shooters, he said, but he’s hopeful one may still lead to a suspect.
You may not be sure if it’s important, but the smallest bit of information, things heard from other people can be looked into and may lead somewhere, he said, urging people to call police with any information they may have.
Several residents complained they’ve seen this coming for some time, noting the increase in graffiti and “cross outs,” the practice of one gang crossing out the tag of a rival, which often leads to violent retaliation.
They say they call the graffiti in right away to get cleaned up to try to stop the violence that could come next, but wanted to know what else they could do.
Call in what you see, get to know your neighbors, form a neighborhood watch, were among the suggestions.
“We cannot do this alone, we need the community to get involved,” officers said.
Residents say they are worried AB 109 and the governor’s prison realignment, and passage of Proposition 47, are sending criminals released early from jail back into their neighborhood.
One speaker said gang members are hanging out at homeless encampments and she’s heard the homeless are being paid with drugs to burglarize local homes and cars.
Resident Richard Marquez said it’s time to stop dancing around and talk about the real issue: Highland Park has a big problem with meth dealers and users, and it’s big money. “Meth dealers pay taxes to gang members” and the way to stop the shootings is to shut down the drug trade, he said.
“There’s a fight for the financial gain of the drug turf in the neighborhoods,” Marquez said.
Lt. John Cook is in charge of Northeast’s gang reduction unit and said they are closely monitoring the gang members coming out of jail.
Are there still gang injunctions in place? someone asked.
There are three gang injunctions—a court-issued restraining order prohibiting known gang members from congregating with each other— in place, (Avenues, Dogtown, HLP), but they don’t apply to new gang members, according to Cook.
Former Highland Park resident Lily Herrera said she is worried about her mother who still lives in the neighborhood. Years of mistrust of the police by residents is keeping people from saying what they know. “The community is afraid because there’s a barrier” when it comes to communication, she said.
She suggested LAPD explore more strategies to reach out to the community.
Teacher Gemma Marquez demanded to know why police are not regularly visiting local elementary schools to develop those relationships. “We know who the at-risk kids are,” she said. “We know the families, we see them as early as kindergarten,” and the police need to present a different view.
She also criticized officers for not notifying Garvanza Elementary to go on lock-down during a recent shooting at a nearby park. “Where were you! We should have been called.”
Oddo apologized for not considering students were still at the afterschool program at 5 p.m. when the shooting occurred.
LAPD has “very little coming in” from the community and that’s frustrating, said Oddo. He said his top priority is the violence in the Northeast, but said he needs people to call them when they see something.
Two upcoming events will provide more information and resources to the community: the Annual Peace in the Northeast March and Resource Fair on April 18, and a forum on gang injunctions April 30 at the Highland Park Senior Center.
Updated 04-06-15 to add LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa attended the meeting.
Street vendors and their supporters staged protest outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters Tuesday, alleging a rise in harassment by police even as city leaders weigh a possible street-vendor permitting program.
Two street vendors and attorneys from the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign also delivered a “citizen’s citation” issued to police Chief Charlie Beck that lists violations such as verbal harassment, intimidation and confiscation of street vendor property.
“Our work is innocent. None of us are criminals,” Pacoima-area vendor Alfonso Garcia told LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith.
“And our work — our families totally depend on what we’re doing,” Garcia, who sells Jalisco-style food, said through a translator.
Garcia added that street vendors “want legalization so that we can go to work with peace and tranquility, and so that we can also contribute to the city, with the corresponding … payments, like taxes.”
The group asked that the citation be delivered to Beck, who they hope will enact a citywide ban on issuing citations to street vendors, similar to an agreement made with a Rampart Division captain for the MacArthur Park area.
Under the agreement, MacArthur Park vendors are allowed to operate without being cited, as long as they do not block access on sidewalks and business entrances, and do not sell pirated or illegal goods, the vendors said.
“We’d like this (agreement) all over the city of L.A.,” National Lawyers Guild attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker said on behalf of the vendors.
The Rampart Division agreement was reached about three weeks ago, according to Juan Rodriguez, an organizer who worked with the MacArthur Park vendors.
Smith responded that he “echoes” the Rampart Division captain in requiring that sidewalks and entrances be kept clear and no pirated goods be sold, but “beyond that, we’ve met several times” with National Lawyers Guild members and other groups to come to “some type of resolution, so that we can all work together, you can make money and make a fair living in Los Angeles.”
Beck, responding to a question about whether he would support the citywide moratorium requested by the group, told reporters that the department is awaiting instruction from City Council on the issue of street vending.
“That’s up to the council,” Beck said. “We will abide by the council’s actions on this just as we do now.”
The City Council’s Economic Development Committee is debating the issue and a task force has been meeting regularly to craft the proposed street vendor permitting program.
In the meantime, protesters said they want a halt to harassment by police.
“We’re here today to demand that LAPD stop its continual harassment of street vendors in the city of Los Angeles,” said Xiomara Corpeno, a director of community education at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
“We are at the cusp of passing a resolution to finally legalize street vending, yet they continue to harass street vendors, giving them tickets that actually don’t have to do with vending sometimes, threatening them and making their ability to make a living almost impossible,” she said.
Police officers have been known to follow vendors home, fail to document items they confiscate and allow health officials to toss food items into the garbage, according to the activists.
Anderson-Barker, who accompanied the street vendors to deliver the citation, said she planned to meet with City Attorney Mike Feuer Wednesday to talk about cases their group documented of street vendor harassment by the LAPD.
She said “enforcement abuses” were documented during legal clinics held by the lawyers guild, adding that recent cases involving confiscation of property belonging to homeless people on Skid Row could also apply to street vendors.
“Our push-back on the LAPD is if you’re going take this property you have to document it, give people receipts and give them a way to give it back,” Anderson-Barker said.
“I think the LAPD … realize there’s no way they can enforce the street vending municipal code fairly and legally,” Anderson-Barker said.
“They don’t have the resources. I think today they will consider doing what the Rampart (captain) has told us he’ll do.
A Los Angeles police officer and a woman who was with him when they were stopped at a U.S.-Mexico border crossing, allegedly with a 26-year-old Mexican man hiding in their car, were charged Monday in San Diego with smuggling.
Carlos Curiel Quezada Jr., 34, drove a white 2014 Nissan Juke into the Otay Mesa border crossing around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and both he and his passenger, 31-year-old Angelica Godinez, handed over their passports, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The small SUV was flagged for further inspection and an imaging device similar to an X-ray detected something out of the ordinary in its rear cargo area, Jackie Wasiluk said.
A subsequent search turned up the hiding man, who had no legal ability to enter the country, she said.
Quezada and Godinez were both arrested. They were charged Monday with a single count of “bringing in illegal alien(s) without presentation,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The pair were expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in San Diego this afternoon.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Quezada is a 10-year veteran who was assigned to the Hollywood Station. He has been reassigned to home duty, with pay, pending further legal proceedings.
Authorities today identified a man who was found stabbed to death in an alley in Highland Park.
The body was discovered about 9:45 p.m. Sunday near Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street. Olugbenga Oni, 34, had suffered a stab wound to the upper body, according to coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.
There were no arrests, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, which asked anyone with information about the stabbing to call police detectives Governo or Zesati at (323) 344-5731; or (877) LAPD-247.
A crowd of several hundred people in Boyle Heights that police originally thought were part of a rave turned out to be a photography group on a Saturday night photo walk.
Los Angeles police officers and an air unit responded to the crowd, reported to be about 300 people strong, a little after 7 p.m. in the area of Mission Road and Seventh Street.
A watch commander at the LAPD’s Central Station originally said the throng was thought to have been part of some kind of rave in the area, but CBS2 later reported that the group was on a photo walk and had caused concern when some participants lit objects on fire so that they could take pictures of them.
No arrests were reported.
The watch commander at the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station, in whose patrol area the incident took place, was not immediately available to comment.
It was an effort to get residents in East and Northeast Los Angeles civically engaged, but turnout for the “State of the City” forum in Boyle Heights last Saturday was sparse, with most of those in attendance already regulars at community meetings and forums.
The Los Angeles chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV), a non-profit, nonpartisan national political organization, sponsored the forum and invited the neighborhood councils of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Glassell Park, Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Cypress Park and Highland Park to attend.
The group said the “pilot” eastside event was in keeping with its mission to encourage active and informed participation in government, particularly in the city of Los Angeles.
It was hoped the forum at the Evergreen Senior Center in Boyle Heights would be a new opportunity for the city’s east and northeast area residents to “hear from their leaders their vision for 2015,” and that they would give feedback to create a better city of Los Angeles.
The effort faced challenges from the beginning, however.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck, Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) General Manager Marcie Edwards were all invited to take part as speakers, but each opted to send a representative in their place.
A wrong address on the invitation and a lack of communication could have contributed to the low-turnout, said some of those who did attend.
Some speculated campaigning in the 14th District City Council race might also have been a factor, though former supervisor and city council candidate Gloria Molina did stop by for a few minutes to listen in, and Councilman Jose Huizar aid Jennifer Martinez was in the audience.
“It’s bad that there are not a lot of people here, [but] they [the League] are doing a good job, people need to be informed,” Molina told EGP.
Whether the problem was timing, logistics, miscommunication or unfamiliarity with the League is unclear, what is clear, however, is that only a few dozen people showed up Saturday at the center where a local Mariachi group had been hired to play as a welcoming gesture to the attendees.
The presentations, followed by questions, were light on details, especially for an audience made up of people who make it a practice, if not a mission, to know what’s going on in their neighborhoods and the city.
Participants listened politely as the mayor’s chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, talked about her boss’ plan to focus in 2015 on job creation, helping homeless veterans, fixing streets and sidewalks, raising the minimum wage and retrofitting buildings in the city to withstand an earthquake.
They listened as Sgt. Kenneth Edwards of LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division explained that much of the city’s 14.3% increase in violent crime could be attributed to a rise in the number of domestic violence cases, and as he explained the department’s need for more cooperation from the community and crime victims.
They heard from Deputy Chief Phillip T. Fligiel that LAFD hopes to improve emergency response times by reorganizing the department into four bureaus. They also heard about the importance of having smoke detectors with working batteries. Many local fire stations are even giving them away free, Fligiel said.
According to DWP representative Albert Perez, the main part of a DWP employee’s job is to help ratepayers save money on their bills. He explained that the utility has many incentives to get there, and urged customers to adopt water conservation practices.
Carlos Montes, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, said the information presented was important but he was hoping to hear more specifics at the “State of the City” about critical issues facing Boyle Heights, namely “gentrification, pollution and jobs.”
Long-time Boyle Heights resident Teresa Marquez, who on any given day can be found at one community meeting or another, said the speakers did not bring anything new to the table.
She said she was disappointed by the tone and how general the information from the mayor, the Police and Fire departments and DWP was.
“They approach us and think we are uneducated, they think we don’t know what they are talking about,” Marquez said.
Montes attributes the low turnout, at least in part, to the League not knowing eastside communities very well. He said they should have reached out to find co-sponsors from the communities they were trying engage.
It could also be that those who attended are already engaged and better informed than the average city resident or voter, explaining the seemingly lack of enthusiasm for the League’s programming.
“We certainly will use the information we received from the attendees’ reactions to shape any programs in the future,” League President Elizabeth Ralston told EGP. “It seemed clear that the audience was more interested in hearing from the Mayor’s Office and the Police Department than the Fire Department and DWP.
League Director Carlos Medina told EGP that the forum was the first of many such sessions they hope to hold on the eastside, and their effort to get to know the community better.
The discussions that take place at these types of forums help the League form its positions on many policy issues, Medina explained.
The political advocacy group, which welcomes both men and women as members, is widely respected and often turned to for information on candidates and ballot measures. The group’s voter website, SmartVoter.org, provides a great deal of information in both those areas, as well as information about voting practices and voter’s rights.
“We don’t lobby, but we advocate for the state legislature or for the city council to take an action on a position that the League has already” taken, said Medina, such as issues related to homelessness, crime, the LAPD and climate change policies.
When Blanca Rodriguez received the call from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Northeast Division last week that officers were on their way over to pick her up, she never imagined they would be taking her to a fire station in Highland Park where Santa Claus was waiting with gifts for her entire family.
A month ago, no one was even sure she would be alive this Christmas, the victim of a brutal and near fatal stabbing attack in her Highland Park home.
“I was very happy, it was a big surprise for me,” said the mother of three, glad to be alive.
On Nov. 20, a man knocked on Rodriguez’ door asking for her husband Jose who was at work . “Without saying anything else, he pushed the door and started stabbing me,” recalled the still shaken woman. “I asked him, ‘What did I do? Why are you hurting me?’ but he wouldn’t say anything,” she said, unable to hold back tears as she described how she tried to fight off her knife wielding assailant.
She was terrified; her two-year-old daughter was also in the house.
“Somehow, I was able to push him away and he ran out of the house,” said Rodriguez.
But not before he nearly killed her.
Lea este artículo en Español: Mujer a Punto de Morir Apuñalada Recibe Sorpresa Navideña
When it was all over, Rodriguez had been stabbed 12 times in the chest, neck and face. The final stab hit her heart.
Bleeding profusely, she somehow managed to get out her door and scream for help.
When the paramedics arrived at the home on Polar Street, Rodriguez was near death.
“She was in front of her apartment, unconscious and [barely] breathing,” Michael Hayes, a paramedic assigned to the LAFD Highland Park station told EGP. Right away they noticed that her vital organs were damaged.
When LAPD detectives went to the hospital to question Rodriguez about what had happened, they found her in very serious condition.
“We thought she was going to die,” Sgt. Roberto Alaniz of the Northeast Division told EGP, incredulous she had survived.
Rodriguez required open-heart surgery and spent nearly a month in the hospital before being allowed to go home, barely able to walk and wearing a colostomy bag. Recovery, physical and emotional, will take a long time.
Police and firefighters were so moved by Rodriguez’s case they felt compelled to do something to help her and her family, especially her three daughters, ages 6, 4 and the two-year-old who was at home during the attack but not harmed. If nothing else, they wanted to relieve some of their pain and maybe bring them a little good cheer during the holidays.
Northeast police officers reached out to local organizations and companies for help and last Thursday the Rodriguez family was treated to the fruits of their compassion: bicycles, school supplies, toys, food and gift certificates for the family.
“LAPD ran [the toy giveaway] and asked our [Spark of Love] toy drive personnel if they wanted to get involved,” said the fire department’s Hayes. “Obviously, the scene between then [when the attack took place] and now was very different,” he said, noting how happy Rodriguez looked with her family.
Hayes, and the other paramedics who assisted Rodriguez in the aftermath of the attack, LAPD detectives, and other donors were on hand to help celebrate Rodriguez’s survival and recovery.
The store manager of the Superior Grocers in Highland Park, Matt Kovacs, said he was asked by Sgt. Alaniz to donate food and gifts to the family, and the company’s foundation responded by donating gift cards for “a Christmas feast.” He was also able to secure donations from Coca Cola and the Bimbo bread company.
Holding a bouquet of flowers, steadied with support from a neighbor helping to care for her, Rodriguez slowly walked around the bounty of gifts, overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her community.
She told EGP she’s still afraid to go home, tortured by flashbacks of that horrendous day when her life nearly ended. The scars on her chest and face, which may never disappear, are a constant reminder, but it could have been worse, she said. She could have died, she said.
What matters now are her daughters, seeing them running around and happy, she said.
“They don’t know what happened to me,” she said. “My oldest daughter thinks I was run over by a car,” she says with a slight smile on her face as she thinks about the lie to spare them from the truth.
Five days after the brutal attack, police arrested and charged Ricardo Gomez Alanis, 22, with Rodriguez’s attack. Described by police as a gang member, Alanis was in court Monday where he was charged with one count of attempted murder. If convicted, he faces 15 years to life in prison. Bail was set at $1 million. His next court date is Jan. 22, 2015.
Police have not released a motive for the attack, but Rodriguez said she believes he had worked with her husband.
Cuando Blanca Rodríguez recibió una llamada el jueves por parte de la policía de Los Ángeles, División Noreste de que oficiales irían a recogerla, nunca imaginó que sería para llevarla a una estación de bomberos en Highland Park, donde Santa Claus estaba esperándola con regalos para toda su familia.
Hace un mes, la vida de Rodríguez colgaba de un hilo y nadie aseguraba que estuviera viva para esta navidad después de haber sido víctima de un brutal apuñalamiento que la dejó al borde de la muerte en su hogar de Highland Park.
“Estaba muy feliz, fue una gran sorpresa para mí” recibir tantos regalos, dijo la madre de tres niñas, contenta de estar viva.
El 20 de noviembre, un hombre tocó la puerta de Rodríguez preguntando por su esposo José quien estaba trabajando. “Sin decir nada más, empujó la puerta y me empezó a apuñalar”, recordó visiblemente conmovida. “Le pregunté, ‘¿Qué te hice? ¿Por qué me lastimas? ‘, Pero él no me decía nada”, agregó sin poder contener las lágrimas mientras describía el horrifico ataque y cómo ella trató de luchar contra su agresor quien una y otra vez la apuñalaba sin piedad.
“De alguna manera, pude empujarlo y corrió afuera de mi casa”, dijo Rodríguez.
Pero no antes de casi matarla.
Rodríguez recibió 12 puñaladas en el pecho, cuello y cara. La última siendo en el corazón.
Ella estaba aterrorizada, sola en casa con su pequeña de dos años, quien no fue lastimada. De alguna forma mientras se desangraba tuvo la fuerza para salir a su puerta pidiendo ayuda.
Cuando los paramédicos llegaron a su casa en la calle Polar, Rodríguez agonizaba.
“Estaba frente a su apartamento, inconsciente y [apenas] respirando”, Michael Hayes, paramédico asignado a la estación de bomberos de Highland Park le dijo a EGP.
Pronto se dieron cuenta que sus órganos vitales estaban dañados.
Los detectives de LAPD que investigaban el caso dijeron que Rodríguez estaba en condición grave cuando fueron a hablar con ella.
“Pensamos que iba a morir”, el Sargento Roberto Alaniz de LAPD División Noreste le dijo a EGP, impresionados que este viva.
Rodríguez requirió una operación de corazón abierto y pasó cerca de un mes en el hospital antes de regresar a casa caminando muy despacio y llevando consigo una bolsa de colostomía. Y aunque visiblemente se ve bien, el recuperarse física y emocionalmente le tomará mucho tiempo.
La policía y los bomberos se conmovieron tanto con el caso de Rodríguez que se sintieron con la necesidad de ayudarla a ella y a su familia, especialmente a sus tres hijas de 6, 4 y 2 años. De alguna manera, querían menguar un poco el dolor que tenían al traerles un alivio durante la época navideña.
Los oficiales contactaron a varias organizaciones locales y compañías para ayudar y el jueves pasado por la mañana los Rodríguez recibieron una cantidad significante de regalos; bicicletas, útiles escolares, juguetes, comida y certificados de regalos para toda la familia.
“LAPD organizó [la entrega de juguetes] y le pidió a nuestro personal encargados de coleccionar juguetes [Spark of Love] si se querían unir”, dijo el paramédico Hayes. “Obviamente, la escena de aquel día [cuando ocurrió el ataque] y ahora es muy diferente”, agregó Hayes enfatizando que ella se veía muy contenta con sus hijas.
Hayes, y los otros paramédicos quienes asistieron a Rodríguez, detectives de LAPD y otros donantes estaban con la familia unidos para celebrar la supervivencia y recuperación de Rodríguez.
Matt Kovacs, supervisor del supermercado Superior Grosers en Highland Park dijo que el Sargento Alaniz le preguntó si podía donar comida y regalos para la familia y la fundación de la compañía respondió con tarjetas de regalo para que tuvieran “una cena navideña”. También pudo obtener donaciones de compañías como Coca Cola y Pan Bimbo.
Cargando un ramo de flores y siendo ayudada por una vecina, Rodríguez caminó lentamente alrededor de sus regalos, abrumada por tanto apoyo de su comunidad.
Ella le dijo a EGP que aun tiene miedo de regresar a su casa, estremecida por los recuerdos traumatizantes de ese terrible día cuando estuvo a punto de morir. Las cicatrices en su pecho y cara, que tal vez nunca desaparecerán, son un constante recordatorio, pero ella sabe que pudo haber sido peor. Pudo haber muerto, dice.
Lo que importa por ahora son sus hijas, verlas correr alrededor de ella contentas. “Ellas no saben lo que me pasó”, y no quiero que sepan, dijo. “Mi hija mayor piensa que me atropelló un carro”, dice con una leve sonrisa sobre la mentira que prefiere que crean para evitar la verdad.
Cinco días después del ataque, la policía arrestó y acusó a Ricardo Gómez Alanis, 22—supuesto miembro de una pandilla—por apuñalar a Rodríguez. El lunes se presentó en corte recibiendo un cargo de intento de asesinato y enfrenta de 15 años de cárcel acadena perpetua. Esta bajo una fianza de $1 millón y su siguiente corte es el 22 de enero del 2015.
La policía no reveló el motivo del ataque, pero Rodríguez dice creer que el asaltante trabajaba con su esposo.