A Murder in the Neighborhood

Is that the sound of a car backfiring or of gunshots? Some nights I'm not certain whether I am hearing the evidence of an engine's internal combustion woes, or if the sound echoing through the darkness stems from a more evil source.

There were sirens—but there are always sirens in Los Angeles. You begin to tune them out after awhile.

The horrific confirmation of gunfire comes in the form of a corner memorial four blocks away. Teddy bears, candles, and flowers for a teenage boy who was on the receiving end of the telltale pop-pop-pop-pop-pop. 

Rumors are flying. He was shot in broad daylight, say some neighbors. No, just after midnight, say other folks. The details are sobering and scary. The shooter, says my neighbor, rolled up on him and pulled the trigger five times, blasting the teen in the head while he hung out with his friends. 

The whispers are that it was gang related. One set that has deep roots across Los Angeles is reasserting their claim to turf—but a group of young guys who grew up in this neighborhood say this is their block. 

Gang Related: Code words that give some folks a reason to shrug their shoulders and decide that if a teenager rolls with the wrong crowd, he gets what's coming to him. 

Gang Related: What happens when you grow up in a community and the dudes you've known since pre-kindergarten are hanging out on a holiday weekend, talking about girls and cars, and whether they're gonna go see The Rock in that San Andreas movie.

Gang Related: Mothers crying. A classmate remembering him as the "quiet guy in my 4th period." More candles burning on the corner. A teacher remembering him, writing that "We will all miss his smile, his dry sense of humor, and his gentle manner."

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

Blood running through the streets. How I wish it had been a car backfiring. 


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