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4 reputed gang members held in Santa Monica slaying

Four reputed gang members were booked on suspicion of murder today in connection with a shooting at a Santa Monica park that left one man dead and prompted police to beef up patrols in the area, authorities said.

The shooting occurred shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday at Virginia Avenue Park, next to a police substation and recreation center where the city's Police Activities League sponsors sports programs to help keep youths out of trouble.

Santa Monica police said they had teamed up with Los Angeles Police Department detectives to determine whether the attack was connected to a deadly shooting several hours earlier in Venice. One of the alleged gang members taken into custody was from Venice, Santa Monica police said.

"Our detectives are working with LAPD detectives to see if there was any commonality between the two shootings," said Sgt. David Hunscke of the Santa Monica Police Department.

As two attackers neared the park, Richard Manuel Juarez, 20, was with three Santa Monica High students, officials said.

The assailants fired multiple shots at Juarez and the others, police said. The three students ran away and were not hit, but Juarez was struck at least once. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

The two suspects, along with two others who were in a nearby car, were taken into custody after a patrol officer heard gunshots and saw two people running from the park area, police said.

Police said they arrested Patrick Dwight Birdsong Jr., 18; Norman Lovan Cole, 33; Sean Alex Mermer, 29; and a male juvenile whose name and age were not released because he is a minor.

All four were booked on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and promoting a criminal street gang, police said. Cole and Mermer also were booked on suspicion of violating parole.

Juarez was a graduate of Olympic High School, said Oscar de la Torre, a board member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

"He was a good kid," said De la Torre, who also is director of the Pico Youth & Family Center, which offers tutoring and music classes for local youths, and worked with Juarez at the center. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Workers at Virginia Avenue Park said Juarez often was at the recreational center and described him as well-mannered. He had just finished an art class there before he was slain, friends said.

The park is in the city's Pico Neighborhood, which has struggled with poverty and outbreaks of violence over the years. The area is home to the city's largest proportion of Latinos and African Americans.

"It's hard to understand it because there are so many good things that the city is doing," said Aranzasu De La O, 26, a Harvard graduate who was raised in the Pico Neighborhood and worked with at-risk youths at Virginia Avenue Park.

Her 15-year-old cousin was killed in 2006 near the park. Police said he was mistaken for a gang member by his attackers, who were members of a gang.

"It's just bad," De La O said of the violence.

Several hours before Tuesday's slaying, a 19-year-old man was gunned down in Venice's Oakwood neighborhood, which also has battled with its share of gang violence and drug dealing over the years.

William Charles McKillian Jr. was walking in an alley in the 600 block of Westminster Avenue in Venice when he was confronted by at least one attacker who opened fire. No arrests have been made in the shooting, which happened about 3:30 p.m., according to the LAPD.

Police said Thursday that they had not identified any suspects.

Authorities in Santa Monica said they had increased patrols and would be out in force Friday for Santa Monica High School's homecoming football game.

"There will be a heavy police presence at that game," Hunscke said.

—Robert J. Lopez in Santa Monica

Comments () | Archives (6)

they were charged with promoting a street gang.lol since when nis that illegal when were in a city that gangs are part of la culture. anyways they caught the gang members.

When kids start dropping out of school chances are they might be heading for a gang.Give them one only chance to get GED in service that will straighten out their lives hopefully last stop thus..serve youre country!!

The needless death of one innocent young man is too much, yet it may not be enough should you fail to recognize the urgency at hand.

Do not hesitate to step to the plate and take the lead to actively seek out and bring together the most inclusive gathering
of community leaders. Urge them to communicate with highest priority importance.

The message that retaliation does not honor the life taken. That retaliation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by your community.

Allow history to serve as your guide to the potential consequences of letting another day to pass without bold leadership and message.

1996 - how many innocent kids black and brown gunned down before
another chapter in the book of Insanity:Westside Edition was closed?

Sadly, a rational student of the local history will approach
any cooperation offered or partnership effort with L.A.P.D. Pacific Division on this matter with strong skepticism.

Pacific Division seems to have garnered the first homocide recorded after the announcement of the selection to fill the office of Chief.

Pacific Division also can be distinguished by a nearly perfect inability to solve a homocide or even develop a list of likely

Has Pac Div solved a black/brown homocide in the last 30 years?

Has Pac Div solved any homocide in the last 30 years?

We did close a Venice cold case just recently. It only took 33
years. It was solved by a DNA unit though, not Pac Div detectives.

The have basically nothing to show for the the homocide Tuesday afternoon in Venice. Don't count on that changing.

They have not even posted an entry on their webpage for news items.

What else is new?

What is important now is more shoot downs in Venice.

Enough to get Interim Chief Downing to sign off on O.T. to
double-up patrols out of Pac Div.

Christmas is coming up and presents to buy and bills to pay.

Does that sound like a harsh comment.

Please provide a counter-argument or the criticism will
stand unrebutted, and inexcusably shameful.

That leaves L.A City Councilperson Bill Rosendahl to do the heavy-lifting to rally his community leaders to get out the message. Just like he did a few years ago after a student
was killed in the parking lot at Venice High.

Put the genie back in the bottle before it gets out again.

The city may barely notice another kid killed on page 15.

But their mothers will still have to be crying forever.

And if Pac Div can't get real in the next 24 hours (which
they can't), S.M. needs to seriously consider Express Mailing
paperwork to the F.B.I.

I wish this violence would stop, they're killing each other but for what! i just feel real bad for the parents of the deceased, because thats somebodys child... and i just wanted to comment about what the person below me said "promoting a street gang lol" and "gangs are apart of La Culture". I think thats very IGNORANT and that person that got killed WASN'T EVEN A GANG MEMBER!!! my heart goes to his parents and to his family, my prayers r with them...

p.f.stone, the fault is not the police depts.

The fault lies with the parents of the gangsters.
The fault lies with the do nothing politicians that are reelected year after year.
The fault lies with the federal judges who continually side with the civil rights groups and don't care about public safety.

But mostly, the fault lies with the gangsters themselves. They don't think like normal people. Stop thinking you can reason with them. You cant. They're animals, not rational human beings.

Bring the landlords of these gangsters in. They allow drugs to be dealt on their property -- with their knowledge. Renting ones property to people who commit acts of violence in our community makes them complicit.

I say a civil suit against these management companies and property owners is long, long overdue.


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