- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 20 (UPI) — The often-lethal wave of violence that turned Los Angeles into the murder capital of the United States last year continued to roll Monday with the deaths of two young boys in separate and seemingly random shootings in the city's suburbs.

An apparent stranger shot a 2-year-old boy to death at a Burger King in Pomona about five hours after a 7-year-old boy was struck down in a flurry of gunshots that erupted after a traffic accident in Compton.

"It's wrong when you shoot kids, man," the 7-year-old's stunned father, Horace Ferguson, told television station KABC. "Do what you've got to do, but don't shoot the kids."

The slayings were the latest shocking crimes in the Los Angeles area, which has seen a surge in violence exacerbated by simmering bad blood between the region's army of street gangs. Los Angeles led the nation in homicides last year with 658.

Pomona police late Monday had no idea as to what prompted a diner at the Burger King to suddenly pull a handgun and shoot the 2-year-old boy who was having lunch with his mother. The unidentified suspect then walked out of the restaurant and was stopped several yards away by a Pomona police officer and a school district officer.

"When they got there, the suspect confronted them and said, 'Shoot me, just shoot me,'" Pomona Police Sgt. Joanne Crabb told reporters.

A dose of pepper spray failed to subdue the suspect, who allegedly then pulled his gun and was shot by the officers. His body remained in the middle of Holt Ave. covered by a sheet as darkness fell.

There did not appear to be any connection between the gunman and his young victim, however the investigation was continuing.

"It appears to be unmotivated, according to what we could get from the witnesses," Crabb said. "We can't say he (the boy) was a target."

The family of the boy caught in the crossfire in Compton indicated they had their own theories as to what happened on their residential street at around 8 a.m. PST and did not feel it was an accident.

Gunfire broke out after a vehicle plowed into a parked car, bringing the owners of the damaged car out into the street.

"When the occupants of the residence came out to inspect the damage, there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspects and the occupants of the house," said Los Angeles Sheriff's Lt. Anthony Ward. "During that incident, a small child was hit."

The boy's family members told KABC they had seen the suspects in the neighborhood before and suspected the accident was a ruse designed to lure them out of their home. They contended that two of their other relatives had been vctims of a drive-by shooting several weeks ago, and they suspected Monday's incident stemmed from those incidents.

"It wasn't a shootout," said one woman who declined to be identified. "It was a set-up."

The child was hit six times by the gunfire. Three suspects fled the scene in a Ford Bronco.

"They killed an innocent baby who didn't deserve this; he never even had a chance to live," one of the boy's aunts told KABC. "The killing has got to stop."

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