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'We need your help'

August 13, 2008 |  3:19 pm

August_conference11Community leaders held a news conference Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Imperial Highway and Western Avenue  in response to a spate of shootings in the Athens-Westmont area.

On Sunday night, Aug. 10, four Latino men were shot at the intersection. One died at the scene, two others a nearby hospital. At least two of the men were brothers.

The next day, 17-year-old Eric Sims, a black youth, was riding his bicycle when he was shot to death in the area. Authorities said the shootings were unrelated.

"We are here because three young men forfeited their lives to this madness Sunday night," said Lita Herron of the Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Cease Fire Committee, an anti-violence support group. "We come to find out this morning that a 17-year-old was killed last night. We've had enough, we've had more than enough."

Herron and civil rights leaders called on elected officials to start speaking out against the shootings and to create more evening youth programs. Herron also called on youths, who often are the perpetrators and victims of homicides, to help end gun violence.

"We need your help," she said. "You know who the shooters are among you. You know this element. It's time to shun it. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your friends. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your family members. It's time to shun the behavior that killed your classmates."

Shortly after the news conference, community leaders gave a final prayer. "Guns down," said Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Assn. "We pray for the guns to be put down."

—Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times