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Wilmington concerned with 8th murder this year

February 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Two teenagers were shot to death in Wilmington on Sunday night, making it the eighth murder in that community since the beginning of the year.

Penelope Alvarez broke down in tears as she clutched a shirt belonging to her son, 16-year-old Meldrick A. Melgoza. He and his girlfriend, 16-year-old Carolina Ramirez, were gunned down while walking in the 500 block of Bay View Avenue at about 7:10 p.m.

Residents said the young man was shot first. The girl was apparently trying to hide under a truck when the suspect went up to her and shot her. The teenagers were pronounced dead at the scene.

The motive remains unknown. Police said it does not appear to be gang related, but they're investigating all possibilities.

"(Carolina) was always positive. She wasn't gang affiliated or anything like that. That's the shocking part," said a friend who did not want to be identified. "She was just a regular girl at the wrong place and at the wrong time."

Residents say a number of gang members live in the area, and they're concerned about the increase in crimes.

"The community wants to know what's going on," said resident Ray Rios. "We love our people here."

So far this year, eight people have been murdered in Wilmington, and some of the shootings have been gang-related. Authorities said there have been a lot of shootings on the east side of Wilmington, but the latest double-murder was on the west side.

"I'm confident that the police department will do everything in its powers to find these cowards who are committing these acts of violence here in Wilmington," said Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

Students at Phineas Banning High School said they learned about the murder of their classmates through Facebook. The loss of the students' lives had other students questioning their safety outside of school.

About 60 people took part in a candlelight vigil Monday night to remember Melgoza and Ramirez. Josue Ortiz was friends with Ramirez, and he says her murder has him thinking about leaving Wilmington.

"I just want to move out from here. It's just scary what happens around here," said Ortiz.

Police do not have a good suspect description, and they're asking anyone with information to come forward. People can remain anonymous by calling the Los Angeles Police Department's tip line at (877) LAPD-24-7.