The shooting of two children in Wilmington on Monday afternoon, leaving one dead and a second critically injured, sparked outrage in the community and across L.A. as police looked for suspects.
Coroner's officials on Tuesday identified Alexander Alvarado, 12, as the boy who was killed. His stepmother, in her 30s, was injured in the shooting, as was a 9-year-old girl who was playing at a nearby school, police said.
In a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday, Police Chief Michel Moore said Alexander was in a car with his stepmother and his 10-year-old brother when multiple gunmen opened fire on the vehicle. The younger brother was in a rear seat, Moore said, and was not struck.
The girl was struck while on a playground during an after-school program at Wilmington Park Elementary School, officials said.
After the shooting, the stepmother drove a short distance away, stopping at North Eubank Avenue near East Anaheim Street, where she and the boys were found.
The motive for the shooting is unknown.
Moore called the shooting "tragic" and said it was part of a broader increase in gun violence in the last two years - and particularly since last month.
Twenty-seven people were shot in the city in the last week, including 19 just over the weekend, Moore said.
As of Saturday, 361 people had been killed in L.A. this year, compared with 317 at the same point last year, Moore said. The city has not seen so many homicides in a single year since 2008, which ended with 384 killings, and killings this year are up nearly 50% over 2019.
The Wilmington area has seen 10 homicides in the last year. Gang violence in the area has declined markedly over the last three decades, but Wilmington and Harbor Gateway remain the most violent parts of the LAPD's Harbor Division. The division has seen 21 homicides in 2021 compared with 17 last year - up 23%. Violent crime is up 8.2%, while property crime is down 4.4%. Shootings across the Harbor Division are up by 20% from last year but below the levels in 2019 by 14%.
Moore also highlighted a recent incident in which two homeless people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a trailer where they were staying in southeast Los Angeles. Moore said that shooting appeared to be a "very targeted" attack.
Between that shooting and the one in Wilmington, nearly 100 rounds were fired, Moore said, adding that both incidents reflected a troubling increase of firearms on the streets of L.A. in recent years and the willingness of criminals to use them.
For some residents, the shooting in Wilmington underscored the need for more attention to violence in the harbor area.
When Guadalupe Meza heard about the shooting, she couldn't help but think of her 18-year-old grandson, who was shot to death near his home in September of last year.
"The violence continues," she thought after she got the news of the latest fatal shooting, just blocks from her home.
Meza, 74, said her grandson Jesse Adrian Meza was studious and had just graduated from high school. He was shot while in a parked vehicle with his cousin, who was also killed.
"Why does this keep happening?" she asked in Spanish.
Meza said her community is largely forgotten and blames "government officials who don't help the neighborhood."
"They need to do something to stop all of this," she added.
"I am horrified by the gun violence that hit the Wilmington community this evening," L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents Wilmington, said in a statement Monday night. "This is such a tragedy. Gun violence has destroyed too many lives in this country and tonight it has terrorized another community. I am praying for the family of this little boy and for the recovery of the little girl and young woman."
L.A. City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, whose district includes Wilmington, said that the community was in mourning and that parks and playgrounds should be safe havens for families.
"No one should be a victim of violence, especially children," Buscaino said. "Los Angeles must become a city better equipped to protect our most vulnerable, and a city better equipped to hold to account those who would commit such heinous acts."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.