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2 shot on eve of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's anti-gang showcase

July 21, 2011 12:42:14 AM PDT
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave fellow mayors a look at the city's Summer Night Lights anti-gang program on Thursday.

This after two teens were shot and wounded at a park where the program had just been put into place.

The Summer Night Lights program is in its third year. It is touted as a way to combat street violence by keeping parks open longer and providing youngsters with free food, music and games.

"These areas have historically been places where kids couldn't go out during the summer to play," said Villaraigosa.

Dozens of mayors from all over the country were at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Summer Leadership Meeting at Costello Park in Boyle Heights to get a firsthand look at how the program works.

But the high profile visit came right on the heels of a shooting at a different park, where the program had just been implemented.

The shots rang out just after midnight on Thursday. About 30 people were walking out of the Wilmington Recreation Center on the 300 block of Neptune Avenue when a man in a dark vehicle opened fire.

A 19-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl were shot. They were taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where they are in stable condition. Police say the shooter fled the scene in a dark-colored vehicle. No arrests were made. The shooting was believed to be gang related, but it is unknown if the victims are gang members.

This was the second shooting in a week at an L.A. park during Summer Night Lights. Last week in South L.A., an alleged gang member was shot at Van Ness Park during a Summer Night Lights event. He is expected to be OK.

The mayor and authorities were quick to defend the program, saying the anti-gang initiative has reduced gang crime.

"The incident last night was a reaffirmation of why we need programs like Summer Night Lights, why we need to open up our parks, bring our families, invite the police department, celebrate what most of us take for granted," said Villaraigosa.

"I think this is a great program, puts kids in a safe place generally," said Lt. John Pasquariello. "Obviously inside that place it's a safe environment. Things happen on the outside, it's just the nature of the world at this time."

"If there wasn't this program we would just be right here on the streets," said Boyle Heights resident Kimberly Ortega. "Just hanging out, no activities to do. Right here there is plenty of activities."

Resident Sophia Cervantes says she bring her two daughters to the park almost every day, and appreciates the security and activities.

Anyone with information about the most recent shooting should call the LAPD at 310-726-7700.


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