Residents filled Anaheim's Brookhurst Community Center last night near the site of a shooting that left 9-year-old Ximena Meza dead. "This is a sad day for the city," said Mayor Tom Tait. "I have great faith in the men and women of the Anaheim police department. I know they will find those responsible and bring them to justice."
New details into the shooting emerged but no arrests have been made despite $57,500 in total rewards offered.
Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada told the crowd that a white car drove up on the 2300 block of West Greenacre Avenue around 7:15 p.m Wednesday night. A man got out and approached a group of men in the area. He opened fire, killing Meza in the process. The gunman ran back to the car speeding away from the scene.
In the aftermath of tragedy, another neighborhood of neglect became a center of concern. "This is the number one priority for the Anaheim police department," Quezada said. The area of clustered apartments near Brookhurst Park is claimed by Chicanos Killing All, a gang that has gained in prominence in the past decade. Police note the slaying as possibly gang-related, though they don't know what rival gang may be behind the crime.
Quezada noted that there would be an indefinite increase of police and helicopter patrols of the neighborhood in response to resident complaints about questions about why officers haven't done more in the past. "We're also looking at a gang injunction for this area," he added. Deputy Chief Julian Harvey admitted to the Weekly afterward, though, that CKA's criminal activity levels were comparably low.
"To be honest, we need assistance, but sometimes we feel a little bit uncomfortable with some police," resident Guillermo Ocampo tells the Weekly. A patrol car parked in the alley blocked his passage last week as he tried to drive through. A cop got out and sternly ordered him to move while hitting the trunk of his car. The experience left him with a mixed feeling.
The number of service calls to police this year from the neighborhood reflect that reality: only 91 such requests have trickled in. Residents in the audience wanted better lighting in the dim alleys of the neighborhood and also for Brookhurst Park, where drug use is said to be commonplace.
In other working-class areas like the nearby Brownwood barrio profiled by the Weekly activists say community centers are needed to give youth something to do. For Ocampo's son, Omar, the huge meeting hall is an underused resource. "This is the first time I've been here and I've lived here over 20 years," the 21-year-old Cypress College student says. The Tiger Woods Learning Center is also within walking distance.
Both Ocampos heard the tragic gunfire Wednesday night. "It shocked me," Guillermo says. "I was coming back from work and walked up the stairs of my apartment when I heard three shots." For Omar, they sounded a wake-up call. "Honestly, no one's really ever looked into the neighborhood," he says.
"After this, people are realizing how bad it's escalating. For a little kid to get caught in crossfire, it's horrible."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2