The murder of a gang member Sunday has triggered a rash of retaliatory shootings that have left the community of Watts shaken and fearful of further gang warfare.
Two gunmen, believed to be members of the East Coast Crips, opened fire, releasing a spray of bullets that wounded seven people.
Violence marred a party that was being held at Charlie’s, a banquet hall on Florence Avenue Sunday when Grape Street Crips gang leader, Brandon “B.L.” Bullard, 25, was shot in the face and later died.
Among those wounded were two women. According to 77th police division Commander Pat Gannon, at least one of the women may be paralyzed for life.
“I heard that the girls were throwing up gang signs and hollering out sets,” said Pastor Perry Crouch, a member of the Watts Gang Task Force. “There was some disturbance, but it settled down, but people from different neighborhoods stayed at the party. I heard people were switching the lights off and on,” said Crouch.
Another man died Sunday as he stood outside of the Jordan Downs housing project, known as the stomping grounds of the Grape Street Crips. Six other men were shot in gang-related shootings.
“Two gangs are going at each other,” LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton said Tuesday at a Police Commission meeting.
Three more shootings were reported early Sunday morning in areas frequented by the East Coast Crips and the Bounty Hunters. Both groups are rivals of the Grape Street gang.
Another shooting occurred around 1 p.m. Sunday when Mauricio Proctor, 22, was shot and killed in front of the Jordan Downs housing project. Proctor’s friend was wounded in the hand by a man police believed was associated with the East Coast Crips.
On Monday at 8:45 a.m., Von Knott, 19, was leaning on his bicycle and talking to a friend in the 700 block of East 97th Street when a gunman in a Dodge Charger approached and opened fire. Knott died of his wounds a few hours later.
“These shootings have put everybody on red alert,” said Crouch, who said that the Watts Gang Task Force had been working diligently to curtail gang violence in Watts and that gang shootings had declined over the past year.
Crouch said that after the shootings, he contacted the Southwest and 77th police divisions and requested that they beef up patrols at several area schools and at all four Watts housing projects–Jordan Downs, Imperial Courts, Gonzac Village and Nickerson Gardens.
“I feel these shootings are very stupid,” said Crouch. “It’s definitely a retaliation thing. It’s caused by ignorance, a lack of self control and a total disrespect for everything we’re trying to do in Watts. What were they doing with guns at a party? The whole psychology is wrong.”
Courtney Cheslea, public information officer for Councilwoman Janice Hahn, said that a town hall meeting was held Wednesday night at the Jordan Downs housing project to discuss the recent shootings.