Residents speak out at neighborhood council

the South LA constituent service center | Southwest Neighborhood Council

Residents bring concerns to monthly meetings at the South L.A. constituent service center | Southwest Neighborhood Council Facebook

Imagine 212 apartments and one overflowing trash chute. Imagine filthy carpets and beds crawling with bugs. Imagine walking into your laundry room to find homeless people sleeping in piles of dirty clothes.

Now imagine senior citizens living day-to-day in these conditions with no sign of imminent relief. The residents of this senior citizen apartment complex in South L.A. are retired and relying on fixed incomes from the government.

Regardless of its inhabitants, though, the depictions of the complex expressed at a Neighborhood Development Council Meeting for the southwest area in late October sounded almost inhumane.

Chairwoman Leonella Enix began the meeting, held at a local community center, with this pressing issue. Residents of the southwest region eagerly chimed in and pleaded for solutions. (The neighborhood development council’s jurisdiction roughly spans the neighborhoods of Vermont Knolls, Manchester Square and Gramercy Park.)

On top of the aforementioned issues with the senior citizen complex, rent recently increased. Enix said that one resident’s rent is now $27 per month more than the monthly stipend she receives from the federal government to cover housing. She walks around the neighborhood trying to find ways to come by the extra money every month, according to Enix.

Furthermore, the property management team does not speak English, only Spanish, so residents’ complaints frequently go unresolved. The majority of the residents are English-speaking African Americans.

The chairwoman went on to emphasize that the Development Council must figure out ways to help the senior citizens to help themselves. Residents want to convene to discuss possible improvement plans, but there is a $100 fee to use the community room at the complex. Sean Fleming, a representative for U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), at the meeting said Waters’s office would request the money to cover a preliminary meeting. Regardless of the outcome of this re-quest, the council plans to raise funds to cover residents’ meeting fees.

Enix said that South Los Angeles needs to find ways to advocate for more resources in general. The conversation then transitioned from senior citizens’ living conditions to concerns about gang activity in the L.A. Police Department’s Southwest Division.

Middle-aged men and women and senior citizens stood up and shouted at the chair, noting that their fear of gang violence increased on the weekends, when much of South L.A.’s police forces are sent to cover the University of Southern California for game days.

These community members took turns trying to convey to the council that they felt “forgotten.” Enix said that the Los Angeles Police Department was currently working on new strategies to combat gangs in the area, but that attempts during the last two weekends had failed.

LAPD officers left the neighborhoods around 9:30 p.m., according to Enix. Residents told her that gangs “waited them out,” and simply struck later in the night.

A cracked sidewalk in Los Angeles | waltarrrrr/Flickr

A cracked sidewalk in Los Angeles | waltarrrrr/Flickr

The last concern discussed at the late October meeting was the condition of the neighborhood’s sidewalks. Margaret Peters, the council’s treasurer, said that she has been a homeowner in the area for 26 years, and her sidewalks looked more “atrocious” than ever.

According to Peters, the city of Los Angeles is discussing options to help residents fix the sidewalks. One is the Fix and Release Program, in which the city would repair the sidewalks once, but any subsequent repairs will be the responsibility of the homeowner. Another is the 50/50 Program, in which half of the cost of a sidewalk repair would be covered by the city and the homeowner would cover the other half. Under both plans, part of the deal entails homeowners being liable for any injuries occurring on their section of sidewalk.

The resounding response in the room was an insistent plea for another resolution to the hazardous sidewalk situation. Community members indicated that trees planted by developers decades ago were the cause of the unsafe sidewalks, and they did not see themselves as liable for buck-ling walkways. Chiefly, they did not want to pay for something they believed was a matter for the public works department.

This meeting provided an opportunity to hear many aspects of local governance that residents of southwest L.A. want to change. They want better living conditions for senior citizens. They want increased protection from gangs. They want safer sidewalks. Above all, they want to stop feeling forgotten.

The Empowerment Congress Southwest Area Neighborhood Development Council meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of every month at the South Los Angeles Constituent Service Center.

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Update: An earlier version of this article said that the city is considering two programs to fix sidewalks. In fact, these are among various options still under discussion.

Anti-gang operation makes hundreds of arrests

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imagePolice and FBI agents announced hundreds of arrests made as part of a three-month program called Save Our Streets.

The program was designed to help overworked South Los Angeles police. On average, they resolve less than half of their gang cases.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Clark said unsolved murders can lead to a loss of faith in law enforcement.

“All too often it’s the case when a family member is murdered, they don’t know what’s going to happen, they don’t understand the process,” he said.
“It becomes very frustrating wondering what’s going on, are they going to solve the case, are they going to catch anyone, and they become extremely disenfranchised with the police department and the criminal justice system.”

Clark said the Save Our Streets program solved more than 70 percent of its cases. That included an arrest in the murder of Kashmier James, a 25-year-old woman shot on Christmas in front of her young daughter.

“I had the opportunity to meet with the family of Kashmier James, and they could not have been more thankful,” he said. “Certainly we will never be able to bring Ms. James back, but we are able to allow that family to begin the process of healing because they know that justice has been served.”

Law enforcement officials are touting the 168 arrests made since July, but they also acknowledge thousands of cases remain unsolved.

Clark said he hopes the program will continue, but that the reduction in crime levels could make it less of a priority. The final decision lies with FBI and police management.

New study says medical marijuana dispensaries lower crime rates

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News


A new study released by the RAND Corporation concludes that medical marijuana dispensaries decrease crime levels. The RAND Corporation’s study looked at crime rates in the areas surrounding 600 dispensaries. 170 of those shops closed after the LA City Council passed an ordinance shutting 70% of dispensaries last year. The study claims crime increased up to 60% within a three-block radius of the dispensaries after closing. Within six blocks, the rate was 25%. The LAPD has no official response yet to the the study, but Department Spokesman Lieutenant Andy Neiman did say:

“I can tell you that we know very factually that there have been very serious crimes at certain pot dispensaries, including burglary, robbery, and also murder.”

Lieutenant Neiman says the study’s conclusions don’t match the LAPD’s experience:

“You know, it’s something that has always been contrary to the common wisdom of law enforcement.”

LAPD is considering whether it will conduct its own study of the issue. Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, has conducted studies which echo RAND’s findings. Don Duncan, the group’s California Director, says the LAPD’s response is typical:

“I’m not surprised to see law enforcement skeptical—they’ve ignored research on this topic and the experiences we’ve had in the past.”

Duncan hopes that the study will help convince cities to regulate, not ban, medical marijuana:

“So, the most important thing that our elected officials could realize is that they can regulate medical cannabis. It’s not too dangerous, it’s not too complicated, and I hope that the RAND study helps reinforce that point, that regulation is really the way to go”.

The study’s author cautions that the study is a snapshot of the issue and welcomes the opportunity to review more data.

Compton court hears closing arguments in Arlon Watson Trial

On the final day of arguments in the trial of Arlon Watson, defense attorney Tracy Grayson asked a witness about the height of the man she saw running away from a fast food restaurant in Compton on the night of May 24, 2009.

“I know he wasn’t a midget,” Debra Lindsey testified from the witness stand. She couldn’t remember exactly how tall he was–only that he was taller than her own five-foot-two-inch frame.

In the trial of the accused murderer of Dannie Farber, a high school student fatally shot at a Louisiana Fried Chicken on the 1900 block of West Rosecrans Avenue, the prosecution believes the man

Lindsey saw that night to be Watson, a 22-year-old Compton resident and suspected gang member.

The discrepancy over heights reported by witnesses to Farber’s shooting played heavily into the closing arguments of Watson’s defense.

The prosecution argued that it wasn’t necessary to quibble over such details in reports by traumatized witnesses when there was such compelling evidence that pointed to Watson as the shooter.

Summing up the major points presented in the two-week-long trial, Deputy District Attorney Joe Porras brought up several phone calls made by Watson from jail once he was arrested last year in which he expressed a willingness to “strike a deal” about a possible prison term.

Porras also reminded the jury of testimony from people like Ashley Webb, who last week said that Watson had told her directly that he shot Farber. He emphasized the stigma of snitching in the gang community and how hard it was to get witnesses to come forward. Failing to show up in court after being subpoenaed, Webb was arrested at her college basketball practice and brought to testify.

“That message that you hear starting in kindergarten—‘Don’t tattletale’—has taken a bastardized turn in snitching. There’s the feeling of ‘you could be next,’” Porras said. “One would hope that people would be lining up to testify, but that’s not the reality. A college girl playing basketball should not have to be arrested to do the right thing.”

Liars, and felons and thieves, oh my.

Grayson began his final statement to the jury by saying, “Arlon Watson did not shoot Dannie Farber.”

He went on to call the case against Watson a “sloppy, incompetent mess, ” describing the prosecution’s case as one “built on sand that has now crumbled.”

Returning to the discrepancies in the reports of the height of the shooter, Grayson assured the jury that this was not a minor detail, pointing to Watson and saying, “Someone’s life is at stake, he’s looking at life.”

The statement evoked swift admonishment from Judge Eleanor Hunter, who said that Grayson should know better than to bring up potential sentencing of the defendant, since such talk could affect a jury’s decision.

Unshaken, Grayson went back to claiming a lack of evidence and describing the people brought by the prosecution to testify as a “band of liars, felons and thieves, oh my.” He insisted they were all being paid and offered rewards for their witness services.

Farber’s girlfriend was with him when he was shot, and Grayson brought up differences between the defendant and the description of the shooter she gave to detectives. Grayson said Watson had a tattoo on his neck and a goatee, but the girlfriend described a clean-shaven man with no tattoo.

Grayson continued to question the credibility of witnesses, making frequent references to a multi-page checklist he kept at a podium. He also claimed phrases from Watson’s calls from jail were taken out of context by people who didn’t know Compton slang. He also wondered aloud why the prosecution didn’t call more witnesses to corroborate Webb’s story and accused Webb of lying, saying she was “smart enough to keep her story simple.”

When addressing the fact that Watson tried to run away when arrested by police, Grayson said, “Call me crazy, but black men from the hood don’t often trust police.”

At the end of his hour-long final argument, Grayson said to the jury, “Mr. Porras failed miserably in convincing you Watson is guilty.” He raised his voice slightly and concluded, “There is tons of reasonable doubt in this case.”

Verdict expected soon

In the prosecution’s final statement to the jury, Porras responded to Grayson, shaking his head and musing, “Listening to that, I have to wonder, were we watching the same trial?”

Porras said witnesses were not paid off and that Grayson’s lengthy final argument was “just odd” and “delusional.” Again citing the difficulty of finding witnesses for fear of being labeled a snitch, Porras reminded the jury of Randy Wells, who had to be relocated outside of his Compton neighborhood, believing his safety to be at risk after testifying.

The neck tattoo Grayson mentioned is actually behind Watson’s ear, Porras said. He also said the slang phrase from the jail calls Grayson called into question, “off the hook,” did not actually appear in the transcripts of the calls.

He encouraged the jury to rise above excuses and issues of racism. “At some point, people will be accountable for what they do.”

He ended by reminding the court of Watson’s phone calls one more time. “Someone who says, ‘I’ll take a deal for anywhere in the neighborhood of 30 years’—really? That’s someone who didn’t do it?”

The jury will reconvene tomorrow morning to deliberate.

Outside the courtroom at the end of the day, Farber’s aunt, Roxane Winston, said she thought the jury would arrive quickly at a guilty verdict.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” Winston said.

Photo: Arlon Watson, at his arraignment in February 2010. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

More stories on the Arlon Watson trial:

Arlon Watson given long sentence for murder of Compton teenager

Arlon Watson trial offers glimpse of gang life in Compton

Arlon Watson trial offers glimpse of gang life in Compton

Ashley Webb did not enter the courtroom through the main door. She came in through the cage on the side of the room—a distinguishing feature of the courtrooms on the 10th floor of the Compton Courthouse, one of the two levels in the building dubbed “high security.”

Deputy District Attorney Joseph Porras asked the petite 21-year-old to describe what she was wearing to the jury.

Looking down at her orange jumpsuit, Webb replied, “Jail clothes. And handcuffs.”

“And were you wearing jail clothes yesterday?” the Porras asked.

Webb responded that she was not. She was visibly shaking because she was here to testify for the prosecution.

Pop culture or gang culture?

imageWebb’s testimony was part of the continuing trial of Arlon Watson, a 22-year-old Compton resident charged with the 2009 shooting death of Dannie Farber, Jr., a Narbonne High School senior and star football player.

The Sunday night of Memorial Day Weekend two years ago, Farber was eating dinner at a Louisiana Fried Chicken on Rosecranz and Central avenues in Compton with his girlfriend. According to prosecutors, Watson walked in the restaurant and asked Farber where he was from. Farber stood up and responded that he “didn’t gangbang,” but moments later he was shot and killed. Farber’s family and friends say he was not involved in gang activities at all, but pictures on several online social networking websites show Farber throwing gang signs and wearing lots of red, a color commonly associated with the gang the Bloods. Prosecutors say Watson was involved with a rival gang, the Crips.

When Watson appeared in court in February 2010 for his arraignment, he sported a county-issued blue jumpsuit and bushy hair. At the trial on Thursday he wore more formal courtroom attire with his hair in braids and black, square-framed glasses. He spent much of the day hunched over, resting his elbows on his knees.

Before testimony began, Porras warned Farber’s family and friends that he would be showing graphic pictures of Farber from immediately after the shooting. Several family members chose to sit outside during the presentation.

The morning’s first testimony came from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Kenneth Roller. Roller confirmed that he and another officer were the first on the scene at the fast food restaurant the night of May 24, 2009. He arrived within 45 seconds of receiving the call of a shooting, but Farber did not appear to be breathing when he reached him. Roller identified around eight photographs he had taken that night, several showing spent shell casings that would have come from a semi-automatic gun. As the pictures became more graphic—close-ups showing Farber lying in pool of blood with several gunshot wounds to the chest–more of Farber’s family stepped outside the courtroom.

Roller said there was nothing about Farber’s outfit that night that jumped out as gang-related.
“He was wearing faded jeans and a white T-shirt. Gang members do wear outfits like that, but it’s also a look that’s in popular culture. My sons wear that outfit sometimes.”

Guardian angels

Sitting outside the courtroom during a lunch break, Farber’s grandmother, Michelle Malveaux, looked exhausted. She managed to smile and laugh weakly as younger family members cracked jokes.

“We’re all here,” Malveaux said. “Grandmas, Aunt Myrtle, and friends that are like family. They’ve been my guardian angels.”

Malveaux has been in court every day since the trial began on Monday. She’s not sure how long it will last.

“Definitely into next week,” she said. “Joe [Porras] may have told me the schedule, but things tend to go in one ear and out the other these days.”

Raffi Djabourian, forensic pathologist with Los Angeles Department of Coroner performed the autopsy on Farber. He confirmed in his testimony this afternoon that Farber died of three gunshot words, including one that severed his aorta and would have caused Farber to be brain-dead almost instantly because of loss of blood. Pictures from autopsy accompanied his testimony.

Watching from the back row of the courtroom, Malveaux pulled her sweater up and over her eyes, as if hiding under a blanket.

On a good day

Webb had been asked to appear in court on Monday. When she did not show up again after being served a subpoena at a basketball practice at a local college, she was arrested last night and taken to the Compton Sheriff’s Department. Webb had never spent time in jail before.

When asked why she didn’t show up to testify, Webb said that she was scared and worried about the safety of her mom and brother.

Webb grew up in Compton in the territory of a gang known as the Tragniew Park Crips. She knows many Crips, including some of her friends, but said she has never been involved in gang activity. She knew Watson by his nickname, A-Whack, and knew he was associated with the Crips.

Several nights after the shooting, Webb was hanging out with friends, including Watson, in her front yard. While her friends were discussing the shooting, someone asked Watson if he had pulled the trigger. Webb said that Watson told her he did. 
She also said Watson had called Farber a “slob,” a term Crips use to disrespect members of their rival gang, the Bloods.

Webb never went to authorities with the information for fear of being labeled a snitch. She said she had heard stories since middle school about the bad things that happen to people who tell on others in her neighborhood.

Just over a year ago, in early January 2010, Webb said the knowledge of what Watson said he had done began to weigh heavily on her. After encouragement from a friend, she spoke to a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department.

In October 2009, Webb was arrested for breaking into a house, but the DA rejected the case and charges were dropped. Webb denied she had been offered any sort of bargain or promised the incident would never come to trial.

Before she left the stand, Porras touched again the seriousness of snitching in the gang community. He asked Webb how tall she was.

“Five one-and-half,” she said. “On a good day.”

Testimony will continue into next week. If Watson is convicted as charged, he faces a maximum prison term of 50 years to life, according to the DA’s office.

Photo courtesy of Scott Varley / Torrance Daily Breeze

Reward offered for information on shooting of 5-year-old boy in South L.A.

From Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office:

Aaron Shannon, 5, was shot on Halloween. Shannon died in hospital Monday night. (Photo courtesy of LAist.)

Update: On November 3, 2010 The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, acting on Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ recommendation, added $25,000 in reward money to the city’s offer, bringing the total to $100,000.

Councilwoman Jan Perry received unanimous support from her council colleagues today for the issuance of a $75,000 reward for information leading to the identification and apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the death of a five-year old. The motion allows the City Council to provide a reward of up to $75,000 for information leading to the identification, apprehension, and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this violent crime.

“This is an assault on our entire community. I hope that this reward motion will help the 77th Area detectives find the person or persons who shot and killed an innocent child on Halloween,” said Perry. “If you have any information, please come forward for the sake of this family and our community at large.”

On Sunday, October 31, 2010, at 2 p.m., five year old Aaron Shannon, his uncle Terrance Shannon (27 yrs. old), and his grandfather William Shannon (56 yrs. old) were standing in the backyard of 1007 East 84th Street when unknown suspects walking eastbound through the alley and fired numerous shots. All three were struck by gunfire and transported to the hospital. Terrance and William were treated for non-life threatening injuries and released from the hospital; Aaron was hospitalized in grave condition and died on November 1, 2010.

Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call 77th Division Criminal Gang/Homicide Detectives at (213) 485-1383. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crimestoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

Manual Arts High School students learn about gangs in their communities

This is the fifth of eight write-ups from freshman students at Manual Arts High School. Some participated in weeks-long projects about animal abuse, drugs, gangs, prostitution and racism. Part of their projects included surveys they created for their communities. After they gathered information, all of the groups presented their findings at a school presentation. Two days later, each group wrote about their experiences during an Intersections writing workshop.


By: Byron Chaperno, Luis Mateo, Carolina Mercado and Cynthia Molina

We chose to research gangs because it is one of the biggest things that influences our communities. While doing this project, we discovered a lot of information. Our group surveyed about 121 students and one teacher. We visited six classrooms.

Many people agreed that one of the most dangerous gangs is one called Mara Salvatrucha. And a lot of people believe that people join gangs because they want to be “cool,” but nobody really knows specifically why people join gangs.

Ms. Sarah Glasband, our wonderful teacher who helped us discover information, also helped us come up with the main question for our survey. Some of our questions were easy, and some were hard. We asked questions that had “yes” or “no” bubbles, and some that people really needed to think about.

During our presentation, we were very nervous. After we finished the presentation, though, we were all happy. We had a great semester, and we hope we can do this again but better.

If we had more time to do this project, we would have liked to interview more people in the community and try to survey some elementary and middle schools. We also would have interviewed more students and teachers at Manual Arts High School.

REVIEW: ‘Down for Life’ exposes realities of gang involvement

image“If you’re gonna fight for something, it should be for something better than this.” Those are the words of Rascal – the 15-year-old leader of a Latina gang clique – explaining why she’s leaving her life of violence. Alan Jacobs’ film, “Down for Life,” follows the story of Rascal (played by newcomer and Manual Arts High School alumna Jessica Romero) on the day she tries to wrench herself from gang life. It also shows why many never leave: The journey is deadly.

The film draws from the story of Lesly Castillo, a former gang affiliate whose essay for a ninth-grade class became the subject of a 2005 New York Times article, “Essays in Search of Happy Endings.” In “Down for Life,” Rascal chronicles her experience in an application essay for a writing program in Iowa, which she and her teacher Mr. Shannon (Danny Glover) hope will get her out. If only it were that easy. It’s hard to write while constantly on the run.

Romero and many of the young women Jacobs recruited for the film are South Central L.A. residents with no acting experience. What they lack in thespian training, they make up for in real-life gang knowledge. Like the grainy footage, the casting strikes an uneasy balance of reality and fiction. The perspective is fresh and hyper-local.

Early on, Rascal and her fellow bangers fight a rival girl-gang of black youngsters for turf near Locke High School. The close-ups of their hands and faces brutally illustrate that this is not some group of girls pulling each other’s hair and scratching each other’s arms. These are hardened fighters on a mission, battling for this small stretch of pavement.

Later, they initiate a new member in an auto repair shop run by the gang’s boss, a psychopathic creep named Flaco (Cesar Garcia). He rapes the new recruit as part of her initiation while the viewer sees close-ups of the mechanics disassembling a stolen Pontiac GTO, possibly to symbolize the machinery of the gangs and the idea of a life systematically being taken apart and reassembled.

All the institutions in the children’s lives – family, education, law enforcement and the gang’s sisterhood – fail them. Rascal flees her home because of her abusive father and seeks refuge with her friend Vanessa (Emily Rios) in Chatsworth. She teaches the valley girls a bit about how to talk and act like gangsters. It’s both scary and quaint to them. But not even Chatsworth can provide a home for Rascal.

The only person who seems to understand what’s really happening to Rascal is Mr. Shannon. He believes she has a gift for writing. More importantly, he believes she has a future, as long as she can extricate herself from the gang scene. Mr. Shannon has to fight to get the school’s principal to approve her nomination for the Iowa program.

“Come on, Lee. She’s representing our school,” the principal tells him.

“Accurately, I would say,” he replies.

Though she has her teacher behind her, Rascal ultimately has to choose to break out. The teacher is less of a savior than a coach. The film’s tension comes not from the question of whether she will get into the Iowa program, but whether she will live to enjoy it.

Iowa represents a fresh start, far removed from L.A.’s vortex of violence. “Down for Life” is less about changing the failing institutions and more about escaping them. The film makes for a harrowing adventure and a magnified look at these girls’ despair, but what is most disturbing is the implied message: If you’re searching for a happy ending, don’t look in South Central.

Mama Hill helps combat gang recruitment

Southern California’s new initiative to fight youth gang recruitment began in May, but some people don’t think it’s strong enough to tackle the gang problem.

This video is the story of one woman who took matters into her own hands.

Candlelight vigil for man killed by gang stray fire

imageIt’s a birthday Vilma Rivera will never forget. On March 23rd, at about 6 p.m., the 46-year-old was returning home with her husband Mario, 51, after buying food for her birthday dinner. As they reached the sidewalk on Crenshaw Boulevard and 29th Street, Mario was hit in the back by two stray bullets from a shootout between two alleged gang members. He was taken to the hospital, but died soon after.

On Thursday evening, the sidewalk between a strip mall and a parking lot turned into a makeshift altar for Mario. About two dozen of his family and community members gathered with candles and a bouquet of white roses for a candlelight vigil in his memory.

“We were walking down the street, and were not expecting this violence,” said Vilma. “We were going back home to have dinner with the family, but we could not get that. We got a tragedy.”

imageMario’s friend Jandy Cisneros said she would always remember him as a loving and caring person who was always with his family. “He was a musician. He had an internet radio talk show, he was a member of a band, and played the keyboard, piano and guitar. He loved music, and that’s how we’re going to remember him,” she said.

The Riveras moved to the U.S. from Guatemala three years ago. They initially settled in the San Fernando Valley, but moved to the Crenshaw neighborhood three months back. The couple did not like life in the U.S and were planning to move back to their country next month, said Cisneros.

Mario is survived by his daughters Grisel, 27, Vivian, 25, son Diego, 18, and two grandchildren. His nephew, Mynor Mancella, 24, said the family was devastated by the sudden loss. “Vilma wishes it had happened to her instead of her husband,” said Mancella. “He was everything to her. They were high school sweethearts and have been through everything together.”

Mancella said though he had lived here for three years, he did not feel safe. Three months ago, his aunt got mugged at a gas station where she worked on Crenshaw and Adams, and two years earlier, a security guard was killed at a Bank of America nearby. “When a man leaves home in the morning, there’s no knowing if he will come back to his family at night,” said Mancella.

imageLEFT: Mario’s wife Vilma and Eddie Jones, president of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association

Eddie Jones, president of Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, who organized the vigil, said the aim was to show the community that “we are not going to tolerate this anymore.” “This is about blood. The community is extremely upset and we want to come together to do everything to keep crime rates down,” he said.

On Saturday Jones plans to organize a drive to trim the bushes and grass on the sidewalk behind which the shooter was hiding. “We are going to work along with the LAPD and with the community to get these shooters off the streets,” he said. No arrests have yet been made in the case.


Family members stand beside a portrait of Mario Rivera who was killed in a possible gang-related shootout in Crenshaw Tuesday.


Vilma Rivera cries holding a picture of her husband.


Family members stand at the makeshift altar for Mario Rivera.