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'This is ours'

August 12, 2008 | 11:03 pm

             Eric_simms17_2

Eric Sims, 17, a black youth, was shot and killed near Budlong Avenue and 109th Street in South Los Angeles about 8:50 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11.

In a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, officials said Sims was riding his bicycle when a dark-colored compact car pulled up next to him and one of two Latino men inside the car fired at Sims, striking him in the lower torso, authorities said. The two men fled.

Sims' friend, Marquece Galloway, 18, said Sims had just left Galloway's home. "Thirty-seconds later I heard gunshots," Galloway said. "I ran out the street, and I saw him lying on the floor."  Galloway said he went to his friend's aide but didn't want to touch him. "He was trying to talk, but nothing came out," said Galloway softly, his eyes red.

Sims collapsed near the playground of Woodcrest Elementary School. Neighbors said they heard about six to eight shots. Resident Lynda Carruthers, 58, walked across the street to the school's gate. She tied a yellow paper sign with the words "Thou shall not kill" to the gate.

"Some people need a reminder," she told her other neighbors.

Residents in the 1100 block of 109th Street said they owned the block. There has never been a shooting incident there. "Between Vermont and Budlong, this is ours," Carruthers said.

Now, 28-year-old Rosaura Suarez said her children are not going to be playing outside. "They're going to have to stay inside the house," she said. Suarez said her 9-year-old daughter saw Sims lying on the sidewalk. "She didn't want to sleep alone, so she slept with me," Suarez said.

Galloway said Sims was goofy and never stepped back from a challenge. He said Sims played football at Washington Preparatory High School, about a block away from where he was shot. He said Sims lived with his aunt and had recently returned from Apple Valley, where his mother lived.

When asked why anyone would shoot a football player, Galloway said he believed that Sims' death was a racially motivated retaliation for an attack on Imperial Highway and Western Avenue on Sunday night, Aug. 10, in which three Latino men were shot dead. But the shooter in that incident was described by authorities as a Latino man.

Two men who live in the area said they had often seen Sims in the neighborhood.

"Just make sure you let people know that [Sims] didn't bang," one of the men said.

Update: The name of the elementary school is Woodcrest, not Crestwood.

—Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times

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