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Father grieves for son, neighbors voice fear, police seek clues in child's slaying by cyclist
LOS ANGELES (AP) ' A sign on the fence in front of his family's Hickory Street home reads Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, lists his date of birth and death, displays photos of him as a newborn and on a rocking horse and includes the words "We Love You."
What it does not convey is the outrage the 14-month-old's killing has caused inside and outside the Watts neighborhood where the young boy was gunned down by a bicyclist Monday night.
The shooting is "an awful tragedy" that has unsettled the department's highest ranks, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck told the department's oversight board Tuesday.
"Gang violence touches everybody," he said. "People have to understand that even though gang members may target each other, victims cross a wide, broad swath. It's extremely unfortunate," he told the board and the Los Angeles Times.
A teenage assassin wearing a hoodie and riding a bicycle killed Angel and injured his father, Mauro Cortez, 24, as the man cradled his son on the sidewalk near his home, police said.
The cyclist fired several shots as he rode by, police said.
The infant was shot in the stomach and died at a hospital following surgery. The father was struck in the shoulder and was released from the hospital Tuesday.
They have not released a motive, but Beck, relatives and neighbors all pointed to the gang feud.
The attacker was black and the father is Latino, authorities said. Neighbors told the Times they have been caught in the crossfire of a six-month turf war between Fudgetown, a black gang, and the Hispanic Barrio Grape Street gang.
The city council voted Tuesday to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest and conviction.
The Los Angeles Kings, on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup, doubled the reward by offering their own $50,000, the team announced Tuesday night.
Kings Governor Tim Leiwicke said the team was offering the reward "to make sure everyone knows this is unacceptable in our city."
At the time of the shooting the Kings were just 10 miles away at Staples Center in the process of going up 3-0 on the New Jersey Devils.
In an interview with CBS2 Tuesday, Cortez said through a translator that he was devastated, that his son was everything to him and that he is scared. He asked the public for help finding the gunman.
The gang feud has resulted in more than a half-dozen killings in the area in the last year, police said.
"I have seen plenty of people pass away here. For a child to go, this has to stop immediately," neighbor Marcus Williams said. "When a child, a child, a baby, this kid didn't have a chance at life. It really hurt. I'm afraid to let my kids play in the yard now. This is right across the street."
One of the men Cortez was with on the sidewalk may have been wearing a purple shirt when the shooting took place, a color some associate with the Barrio Grape Street gang, the Times said. Grape Street is one block west of Hickory.
Cortez is an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, who did odd jobs, friends and relatives told the Times. When he showed up three years ago, the Cervantes family took him in, matriarch Sara Cervantes said.
Cortez had nothing to do with any gang, neighbors said.
He got married and in 2011, Angel was born.
"He was always here playing with the baby. The baby was his life," said Maria Trujillo, another member of the family. "With these shootings going on, you don't feel safe in your own front yard," she added.
"There was a shooting around over there on the corner a block away; one on Wilmington, and another up around the corner," said Miguel Medina, an unemployed construction worker who has lived on the street for five years. "When I came here it was calm, but then six months ago they began killing each other."