Fatal shooting of baby in Watts ‘an awful tragedy,’ LAPD chief says
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck called the fatal shooting of a 1-year-old baby in Watts on Monday night "an awful tragedy" that has unsettled the department's highest ranks.
Beck addressed the slaying at his weekly meeting with the department's oversight board.
Police believe the shooting may be tied to an ongoing gang rivalry in the area.
Mauro Cortez, who is in his 20s, was cradling his 1-year-old son, Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, in his arms on a sidewalk near 105th and Hickory streets when a man on a bike opened fire about 7:50 p.m. Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
The boy was taken to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. He died around 11 p.m., police said.
Police do not believe Cortez was a gang member, although he may have known some members. But he had been wearing a shirt that was purple, a color associated with the Barrio Grape Street gang. A family member told him to take the shirt off because of gang violence involving Grape Street that has plagued the area in the last six months. Grape Street is one block west of Hickory. Apparently another man in the group had on a purple shirt that he did not remove, said Mariela Cervantes, whose parents took in Cortez almost as their adopted son.
Beck emphasized that residents and police in the Watts area have made significant strides in lowering rates of violence in recent years. Overall, violent crimes are down by more than a third so far this year, according to police statistics. Gang crime, meanwhile, is down 15% citywide. "Obviously it's still an area of great concern to us, but they have made so much progress and people should recognize that, even though it doesn't change the horrific nature of this crime," Beck said.
Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, who commands the department's South Bureau, said in an interview that 10 detectives have been assigned to the case. A promising tip from an anonymous caller Tuesday morning led investigators to an abandoned house, where they were told the shooter was sleeping. However, it was a dead end, Gannon said.
A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday as authorities seek help solving the murder.
Police believe the shooting may be tied to a spasm of violence last year between rival gangs in the area. A series of shootings between the black Fudgetown gang and Latino Watts Barrio Grape Street culminated with the arrests of men from Fudgetown, according to Gannon. The men are scheduled to appear in court for their preliminary hearings in coming days and Gannon said investigators speculate that Monday night's shooting may have been spurred by the gang's anger over capture and prosecution of their members.
-- Joel Rubin and Sam Quinones
Photo: Sara Cervantes, who lives at the residence where the shooting occurred, grieves for the loss of 1-year-old Angel Mauro Cortez Nava. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.