After stopping by a family birthday party in Echo Park early Saturday night, a young couple with their 10-month-old son left the home near Berkeley Avenue and Mohawk Street and headed to their car. Moments later, gunfire rang out from all directions. The mother grabbed her baby and hit the floor of the Honda SUV to avoid being hit. Her husband, a 24-year-old man named Tyler, was not so lucky. He was hit in the buttocks after he jumped into the driver’s seat.
“They saw me putting a baby in the car and they still shot at me,” said Tyler, a caregiver who is in training to become a paramedic. “I was freaking out. I thought I was dying. I saw blood rushing out of my pants.”
Neither Tyler nor his wife are gang members. But police say the Saturday night shooting is gang related and most likely prompted a retaliation on Sunday morning, when a 47-year-old known gang member was shot in the torso while talking on his mobile phone on Echo Park Avenue near Baxter Street.
The shots from the Sunday morning incident were fired from a vehicle whose occupants yelled out “Where are you from?” The man never had a chance to answer before he was hit, said Detective Rick Ortiz, who heads the LAPD Northeast Division gang unit.
“We are looking at the second [shooting] as possible retaliation,” Ortiz said. LAPD is deploying extra officers to Echo Park as well as specialists in gang intervention to squash rumors and head off further violence between rival gang members, Ortiz said.
The pair of shootings with injuries surprised Ortiz since gang shootings have become increasingly rare in Echo Park, particularly those intended as retaliation. “It’s been quiet for so long,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz and his gang unit are trying to figure out if Tyler, who did not want his last name published, and his family were caught in a cross fire on Berkeley or if he had been mistaken for another person. Bullet casings at the scene indicated that shots came from two different guns, Ortiz said.
The violence began at about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when Tyler and his wife, who live in Koreatown, left a birthday party thrown by one of his wife’s family members. Tyler, who left an account of the shooting in a comment on The Eastsider, said he was not aware of anyone at the party being affiliated with a gang. But he knew that the blocks near Berkeley and Mohawk had been the scene of shootings and other violence in recent years.
The couple were preparing to put their son in a car seat when they noticed a man dressed in a dark, hooded sweatshirt standing on the sidewalk staring at them. Feeling threatened, Tyler told his wife to get into the car while he went around to get into the driver’s seat. At that point the passengers from a sedan traveling westbound on Berkeley shouted in the direction of the couple and then started making a U-turn in the street. Meanwhile, the driver of another vehicle, possibly a pick-up truck, traveling in the opposite direction, pointed a gun directly at Tyler and fired, he said.
Tyler said his wife saw the man in the hooded sweatshirt approach the car, pull out a gun and started shooting. The woman grabbed her baby and ran to safety at a neighbor’s home. Wounded and bleeding, Tyler drove his car down Berkeley before returning to the scene of the shooting outside his wife’s family home, where he got out of the SUV and collapsed on the ground as the first police squad cars arrived
Today, Tyler said his wife was taking their son to a pediatrician to make sure he was okay. Meanwhile, his anger grows at the thought that the shooters had been so callous, firing bullets within inches of his son and wife. He also wants to get the word out about what happened on Saturday night.
“I just want the violence to stop.”
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