Public officials and law enforcement respond to shooting at South LA park

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Patrick Caruthers was was shot in the back in broad daylight Tuesday while sitting under a tree in Jackie Tatum/Harvard Park – a place where he had spent many hours as a youth volunteer for the Department of Parks and Recreation. Authorities say he was likely mistaken for a gang member, even though Caruthers had no gang affilliation.

Mark Mariscal, the superintendent in charge of Harvard Park, said today that his agency lost one of their own.

“It is a loss; it was a family loss. Mr. Caruthers … was a good volunteer that had spent more than seven years in our park program,” Mariscal said.

imagePatrick Caruthers’s pastor leads a prayer at the start of a candlelit vigil on September 26, 2012.

Tyronda Magee also used to volunteer at Harvard Park and taught Cartuthers dance there when he was a kid. She attended a vigil last night to honor her former student and remembered him as kind and good-natured teenager, who did well in school and stayed away from gangs.

“He never was messing up at school or at home or anything like that,” Magee said. “He was very like, spiritual, and all the kids at the park looked up to him like a big brother.”

imageVolunteers help build a baseball field at Denker Recreation Center.

Less than three miles away from Harvard Park sits Denker Park Recreation Center on 35th Place. Volunteers gathered there this morning to make improvements at the site such as as a new baseball field.

The money was donated by a local affordable housing developer. The center’s recreation coordinator Liz Alamillo said the improvements would have a positive effect on young people in the neighborhood.

“When you provide a safe haven for your children to come to, you’re much more comfortable bringing them here as opposed to letting them be out on the streets. When they’re here they’re away from the element that’s negative in their life.”

Senior lead officer Pierre Olega used to patrol the area around Harvard Park. He now serves in LAPD’s Southwest division, but he agreed that it will take more than police action to solve the problem of violence.

“We’ll do search warrants; we’ll identify these gang members … to make sure they stay away, but it’s also important for the communities and the parks to help on the back end. If we arrest someone and the jail’s overcrowded and they’re back out, what more power do we have?” said Olega.

Security cameras were supposed to be installed in Harvard Park over the summer. But Councilman Parks said in an emailed statement today that the issue was held up “unexplainably” in the Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilman Mitch Englander. A final vote is expected to take place tomorrow.

Superintendant Mariscal praised Parks’ leadership in trying to install the cameras after the council approved funding for them in February.

“Bernard Parks’ office … has really been trying very diligent[ly] to get this whole process done, specifically at Jackie Tatum/Harvard Park.”

While the cameras won’t stop bullets, the hope is that they can act as a deterrent to future crimes.

Eighth District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks will introduce a motion on Friday to provide a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, apprehension, and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Caruthers’ death.